Writing. Culture. Politics. Wandering.
Welcome to the Desert of Man, blogging home to Science Fiction reader and experimenting writer Mack Meijers. From time to time I explore and share the things I work on, thoughts I have on it as well as experiments and considerations. This time we’re visiting the thoughts behind, and the framework of the fictional universe Of Suns And Spheres.
And yes, feedback and exchange of thoughts are always appreciated!
Most of my writing takes place there. I consider it an expansive framework to bridge concepts like myth building and story telling, for the purpose of shaping an immersive experience. It’s not easy, at minimum because one always has to keep in mind that it is not the writer who finds that immersion. It is the reader who finds him- or herself experiencing it.
It exists only in my head, although the foundations for it exist in a collection of (very) old paper manuscripts I found in a box while moving. Paper, indeed. Worse, most manuscripts had stacks of handwritten notes tied to them. I had forgotten that I once wrote, as in actually used a pen. Looking back now, what a difference from today. These past months, I have begun to sort documents, rework structures and map key patterns, events and characters.
Like many things, the imagination of a child, and the experiences of life. Of Suns And Spheres is a fictional universe, like so many created in the minds of authors and readers alike. It once began as an attempt to get me, my grandfather and my father to sit down at the same table, play a game and talk. Needless to say, the initiative came from my grandmother. Women, they are smart, to say the least. In those days we had the precursors to what later became board games, usually people created them out of the blue, inspired by radio shows. Precursors in their own right, back in those days you actually got to listen to a play on the radio.
Well, one night when under the stern looks of several strong women we sat down. I remember it as an interesting night, ultimately. We listened to a rerun of a radio play, had snacks, and tossed around ideas. An venture capitalist, a banker, and a kid. A few weeks later it got even more interesting as an uncle, a stereotypical but remarkably modern catholic bishop, joined us.
The initiave was one wasted for its designed purpose, but many years later I still had those ideas in my head. The main theme being that of us human beings not able (willing) to learn lessons from repeating the same mistakes over and over again. And that is hardly science fiction. Look at our modern times, go back in history. Extrapolate synchronicity, establish trends and patterns and then go forward in time. History moves in cycles, though not in circles. In events, consequences and ripple effects it can contract as well as expand.
As a species we do not really learn from our mistakes. Even as individuals, it is something we find hard. Truth be told, most of the time (and often at the best of times) we mostly try to pass on lessons to those behind us. For us a species, learning is even more difficult. Often very nearly impossible, at least not until we collectively arrive at a point where the lesson reaches a threshold where through processes of internalisation and globalisation (as we call it these days, but really that is old as we ourselves are) reach a breaking point in our trends of cultural development. Only very rarely does that not result in cataclysms. For the most part because we are a species that thrives on chaos. Collectively, we have a problem with authority, while craving it – just consider the dynamics there between the individual and the group level. Not a healthy combination.
As a species we are demonstrably becoming less violent, in spite of appearances. At the same time however we are increasingly able to wipe the board, just as increasingly we apply organisation to benefit from chaos. Damn the Romans, so to speak, though we might as well blame Alexander and Sun Tzu.
I know, it does not seem this way at first, but as cold as this may sound these are abstracts on a relative scale. As societies we place value on individuals as resources, returning the perspective is something that is bound to occur. And yes, we see so much violence, so many terrible things. But we are getting closer to a point where consequences of violence on the group level can no longer be easily escaped, and that is having an effect on our collective psyche.
Collectively we have honed the Caesar syndrome in to an art. Not that the Romans were the first empire, far from. But in all too many ways our modern societies base their cultural development by analogies and principles on their development. Look at our western societies today. We’re a combination of the empires and circles of old, and a backbone of an empire of today. History, cycles, repetition. While we have institutionalised violence, making it an instrument of our social structuring, in terms of excess it is getting less excessive, most likely because we get too close to each other to evade the consequences. Hence our tendency to organise violence increasingly on a group level, institutionalised even, as opposed to the individual level where baseline triggers are the instigators. Yes, this is inherently more dangerous to the species. Undoubtedly the next few hundred years that is going to be one of the biggest hurdles to take. An incentive to get out of this cradle of life.
Of Suns And Spheres is a universe where human development sits on fault lines, fractures brought in to the universe by our own hand. Leave a kettle on the fire for too long, and it boils over. Hammer it shut, you ultimately get rather different results. Under conditions where not learning the lesson redefines the definition of cataclysm in terms of consequences – which can no longer be shrugged off, or controlled by our traditional buffers like pyramids of power.
So it’s a pretty cold and dark place. Beauty is present, but it is as isolated as it is costly. That which connects is that which feeds. Under such circumstances, feeding the soul is hardly a priority for the majority. Mythbuilding. That will always be with us, even in its smaller forms like fan fiction.
It’s a universe full of disparities between groups of humans. Not all that different from today. We as cultures make no effort to mitigate such disparities, instead we have vested interests in maintaining and growing them. Caesar rules our politics as much as he does economics and sociology. Problem is, amidst forces of isolation required for the scarcity that enables the system of feeding, there are natural limits to growth. Even when you have a galaxy at your disposal, especially even, because that isolation factor is not a positive one. We can see that in our modern times today, cultures that isolate, well, it doesn’t end well in the long run. In terms of analogy, you start with expanding, but end up eating your own feet. And I’m not even mentioning the fundamental challenges that arise when different schools of thought meet in such an environment. Look at our modern times, let’s put it this way: those who own the debt still play chess, those who sail by play go.
In other words, we shoot ourselves in the foot by investing in systems that strive to increase disparity. In the long run particularly. As long as we here on earth remain limited to a single solar system, it is a big question whether we can see the necessity of curing a few elements of our collective psyche. In a fictional universe we can avoid that sour tasting challenge though, and extrapolate towards a far future. We cannot however simply reach for the next Deus Ex Machina to bypass natural patterns of behaviour and the conflicts that follow. Trias Politica, the Pillar of Finance. Who owns space? Those who roam there. Something to think about, especially today.
Of Suns And Spheres is a stage where any human form of organisation is always an instrument of a power that binds. Much like in our modern time, we just rarely admit it (particularly in the West where we still think that Trias Politica exists – because we choose to believe, we want to believe). Politics as instrument of economics, of ideology. Of monarchies and empires still stuck in the trap of required scarcity of resources. Of cultures guided by means of marketing (are we today really that different?) and the organised use of the necessity to believe – in order not to be alone (after all, everyone’s nose needs to point the same way right? Fear is a powerful instrument of organisation.
But as I said, disparities. There are divides of many types, from the economical to the technological. And between all those human caves the void is the strongest element that does not solely divide, but also connect.
What came later, in terms of characters and the issue of psychology, is essentially derived from a somewhat intoxicated bishop engaging in a philosophical discourse on the theological problem of man being created flawed, only to be given a chance to repair much later, a chance wasted. I’ll leave that cryptic for now, I’m not convinced at this point that this is an angle I should incorporate into the stories. Even today I wonder how he could have become a bishop (then again, he also flirted with Teilhard de Chardin, so to speak). It’s made me do a lot of research over the years, but there are limits to how much room one really has to repair cultural mythologies.
In a nutshell, Of Suns And Spheres is a universe where actions and inactions have consequences for the collective nature of human kind, because class is over. Lessons can no longer be avoided. The exams have begun. It’s cold, a little dark, but it is always honest. There’s men and women trying to build lives, just like there are those trying to break lives. At the edges though, there are people who – somehow – get the fundamental challenge.
Some of them are those rare few who find themselves looking in from the outside.
A few others, they have been around for far too long …
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