Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Road tripping while thinking about Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Blacktop clouds the colour of new asphalt. Many hours from the nearest city. A deserted stretch of country road. A 20 year old diesel Mercedes. Crusing at 100 km/h. Steering wheel sticky from heat and sweat. Fan on full, windows down, no A/C. One passenger. One driver.

The driver is called Shelly Fallbright, an engineer and amateur naturalist.
The passenger is Sean Oakley, a cultural anthropologist and practicing existentialist.

They are both fans of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.,.

Their conversation would make it into a novel.

But not a short story.

They are driving across a country which didn't exist a few years ago, a country which still does not have a name.

They have elected to take this trip because they have certain special mental skills.

Together, Shelly and Sean are social reality engineers, they've been hired to establish an elite intelligensia in this newly born republic they're driving through.

They will begin by laying a mental framework among the new ruling party which will dissolve internal hypocrisy and unify collective opinion on the subject of universal equal rights of opportunity, the value of life, the value of intellegence and a liberal morality.

They will continue by creating a sense of exclusivity by promoting adoption of these values as a prerequisite for access to power and information.

They will even nurture a small conservative counter movement so that the elite can easily define themselves after Shelly and Sean have left by pointing to those who are excluded, namely the small conservative movement.

As a special part of their service package, they will introduce the existentialist notion of the fundamental ridiculousness of life, the inevitability of death regardless of choices and the ethical obligation of causing no unnecessary harm in the pursuit of goals.

They will frame a world in which no one makes excuses. They will frame a world in which tasks take no more time, nor less time, than they require.

They will build a frame and everyone in power will step into the picture.

All that is in the future, Shelly and Sean are calmly expectant, their composure in the Mercedes is one of relaxed knowingness.

"Hi ho," says Shelly.
"Hi ho," says Sean.

They drive on.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Moon rise, Moon rose, Moon risen,

Johnny Trueson was a retired wrestler back on Earth. Elected to President of Tycho City on a simple platform of legalized gambling, prostitution, soft drugs and universal wheelchair access. His campaign motto was "Your Home! Your Business!"

He won by a large margin.

And so the years passed, Earth leaning ever further towards a religio-anarcho-oligarchy-superstate and the Moon drifting further and further away in its liberties, free markets, opportunities for individual rewards.

Johnny Trueson hadn't started the trend, but he nurtured it, quietly spread the notion that anyone interested in truly excellent, cutting edge research, sales, or marketing opportunities, had to emigrate to the moon.

Under Earth's gravity, the best ballerinas and ballet dancers retired young; none regretted emigrating to the Moon, where they could nearly dance forever.

Possibly the reason for Trueson's success wasn't his platform at all, that only got him elected.

Possibly it was his community dancing initiative. Rare in history is there a people who love dancing as much as Lunars.

It's difficult to undermine a community which enjoys frequent dancing.

Johnny's greatest triumph?

One day, there was a secret referendum, everyone had the secrecy laws explained to them, all the citizens of the moon were curious, because the customary voting fee (encouraged people to vote conscientiously or not at all) had been waived.

Ballots were cast, ballots were counted, by hand, according to tradition.

Johnny received the results gravely, he nodded. Turned to the large manual by his desk and continued to read it carefully. What he would do was extremely dangerous. Without this manual, he was lost. The builders had clearly anticipated this, the instructions they left were a rosetta stone of formulas, programming languages and pictograms with lots of little yellow numbered (binary) arrows.

At the prearranged time, the miracle happened. The moon woke up.

Secret engines buried under the sea of tranquility activated. They were massive, ancient engines, aeons dormant, only recently discovered and little understood. But they could be understood. Everybody called their creators the 'builders.' Everyone involved with the engines had been working at a burning pitch of excitement for months, sharing the knowledge that this was the greatest mystery humanity had ever encountered.

The referendum results shouldn't have surprised Johnny, he knew his people. Nevertheless he was touched at the level of enthusiasm for his dangerous plan.

So, 6 months ago, President Johnny Trueson, now Captain Trueson, piloted the moon out of earth orbit, strangely, there were no tectonic catastrophes, the tides were unaffected, not even a mild tremor.

Second rate scientists still on Earth hurriedly gave press conferences.

The religio-anarchic-oligarchy of Earth officially declared war on the Moon.

Had Johnny known about it, he'd have laughed.

But the Lunars were already beyond Antares, and the stars themselves their neighbours.

Universum est nostri, read the new Lunar motto.

The universe is ours.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Curious End of Francois Gennedy - Absurdist Science Fiction

Many years ago, Francois Gennedy ran a used hot rod concession out from behind his house. His sizeable property held a rather tame collection of project cars, donor cars and parts. With one exception, there was an engine in there that Francois claimed would run 100 km on a single litre of gas.

Legend surely, but Francois had once worked for a major automobile manufacturer, or so he claimed, which had purchased his patent and sat on it, leaving Francois with only his demo engine (he'd given them a copy, claiming it was the only one, which the company promptly destroyed).

Under a stack of legal documents that would punish him with worse than death should he circumvent the wishes of the company, Francois had hidden the engine somewhere in his back yard and did his best to forget where.

Or so he claimed. Many people tried to find that engine without success, then one day, Francois disappeared without a trace.

A quarter century and several passports later, my collegue, Frank Kennedy, confessed that he was actually Francois Gennedy.

I didn't believe him of course, if the Frank Kennedy I knew was in fact the legendary Francois, he should have been 103 years old. Frank Kennedy was a well preserved 57 despite his habit of chain-smoking.

He explained that the engine worked on future-fuel. I asked him what he meant.

"You see, I figured that if there is such a thing as multiple dimensions, I realized it didn't mean they ran perfectly in sync. Things could happen here and now but one step left or right, here and now could be then and there. So I built an engine on the theory that all the fuel it would ever use potentially, must be in use right now in one dimension or another"

"You lost me after the word dimension,"

"Forget the theory side, the practical upshot is I built an engine that would run it's entire lifetime on a single litre of petrol while emitting exhaust gasses backwards in time,"

I was certain Frank had had too much to drink, yet the more I protested and poked holes in his nonsense the hotter he got under the collar.

"Dammit! I'll show you! Let's take a drive,"

Frank's car was so unspeakably ordinary, it slid off the memory banks like a cash withdrawal. Even the colour was indescribably mundane.

"Boredom personified, isn't it? I'm especially fond of my rust job," Frank indicated the places on the body where, for reasons never fully explained, he had carefully painted the body with browns and reds so the car appeared older and more used than it actually was.

I admitted that the paintwork was realistic. Frank pointed out other aspects of how he had weathered, stressed and antiqued the body.

I finally asked him why.

He answered by opening the passenger door.

You'd never believe the places we went, the adventures we had, I won't try to describe them.

Frank Kennedy told the truth, yet less than the whole truth.

In his car, the further you went, the younger you got, the further into the past you travelled.

The emissions travelled faster, stopping in the carboniferous period.

That's why I had to kill him.

The Company would never tolerate such a machine to exist. It would upset our alien overlords to no end.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The cursed company

Once upon a time, A petty noble and his company of men, insulted a river as they were hunting. The river, being magical, cursed them all to 40 years of ceaseless, changeless riding, their youth suspended so they could all feel the full measure of the river's punishment.

They rode; through towns, trackless wastes, even under the sea, sometimes mad, sometimes violent, sometimes snatching women up and raping and killing them on horseback.

Over 40 years of ceaseless riding, they had lost and regained themselves several times over, eyes gleaming with slick oil, demonic eyes, as often sad, grim, eyes that had seen a thousand battles.

The Japanese called them 地獄のライダー

The Hell Riders.

When the curse lifted, they had been riding through fields of wheat. It was late summer.

What a terrible sight it must have been.

To see a company of men,

abandon their mad horses,

plunge into the golden wheat,

cry like broken children.

Exactly the sort of...

What is this? A collection of odd lots from my illustration pasttime. Why is this here? I don't know, there are too many people on the internet these days. Does someone else enjoy my bad taste and pseudosymbolism? Is this the kind of 'bad art' that requires lengthy explanations by the artist in the catalogue? Using words like: suggests, implies, disguises?

It's a fashion, the more you know the more ignorance you profess, against hubris, against tall flower syndrome.

(in Poland, if someone is a 'tall flower' they are an achiever who has attracted the notice of superiors, therefore is a threat to them and must be eliminated, as in: the tallest flowers get cut first, Soviet origin likely, Russian history is brutal)
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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Space Music of Ajax Moonshine

It was going to be a short night. Blast off caps, the gravitron launch pads, had thrown their last cargo of the day into the shipping lanes heading in-system, there was a crack as the payload passed the sound barrier.

Ajax Moonshine, a smuggler, and all around prognosticator on all things modern, performed a trick he learned in the spice markets, he imagined space music, an old spacer tune, and was instantly asleep.

Asteroid mining, it's a business. Night on this rock lasted a decent 5 hours, it was big enough for the Blast off caps. Roughnecking his first 15 years in space, Ajax decided to freelance, to take a few private jobs.

Cigarettes (illegal), alcohol (for religious consumption only), and Playboy Magazine (possession is a misdemeanor, 'use of offending material' is a crime).

2 years later and Ajax was a wanted smuggler of such dirtside luxuries.

And it had made him rich.

But now he was being asked to smuggle something else, at a ridiculous price, in fact his opening asking price. So Ajax Moonshine, a rep to protect, takes possession of a small package and is well into deep space when something happens.

In his silent cabin, Ajax acquires the bizarre conviction that someone has just been thinking inside his head, and it wasn't him.

Ajax begins to feel ideas floating up, space music, but not his.

The music wants to tell him something, to open the package, no, to tell him the package is open.

It's getting hard to think, Ajax shudders, when he sleeps, what then?

Somehow he knows. It frightens him.