Browse Tag

Fictional non-fiction

The Minotaur’s Rebellion

by Ben Roth

The Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

University of Athens

Greece

March 15, 2020

To the Editors:

Please find enclosed a submission to the journal concerning the myth of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, in light of recent archaeological discoveries on Crete. I am well aware that such radical findings, coming from an unknown scholar such as myself, will be received with skepticism by the academic community, but I trust that your anonymous peer reviewers will examine the evidence presented carefully and dispassionately.

Title: The Minotaur’s Rebellion

Abstract: According to mythology, at the behest of King Minos, Daedalus built the Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur, the offspring of Minos’s wife Pasiphaë and a white bull. Each year, seven young men and seven virgin women from Athens were forced into the Labyrinth, to be eaten by the Minotaur. Evidence from a recent archeological dig near the Palace of Knossos is presented.  Comparing the layout of the site to historical descriptions, it is argued that it is a plausible candidate for the long undiscovered site of the Labyrinth. Analysis of the extensive site’s middens reveals that it sustained a sizable population, and included open-air farming areas and fresh water sources. Reinterpreting certain artistic representations and offering possible translations of fragments of Linear A, it is hypothesized that the Minotaur’s father (i.e., “the Bull”) was actually a political dissident, his son imprisoned rather than killed by the king both out of deference to his wife and out of fear of fueling revolt. Over the course of multiple generations, the supposedly sacrificed Athenians, led by the Minotaur, created a self-sustaining community within the Labyrinth, which took up the Bull’s political cause. More speculatively, it is suggested that an eventual conflict between this community, emerging from the Labyrinth, and the surrounding one in Knossos might have contributed to the still unexplained decline of Minoan civilization.

Word Count: 9,752 words and eleven figures.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to your decision.

                                                                                   Sincerely,

                                                                                   Nolan Robinson, Ph.D.

                                                                                   Adjunct Instructor of Anthropology

                                                                                   Western Massachusetts College

                                                                                   USA

~

Bio:

Ben Roth teaches writing and philosophy at Harvard. Among other places, his short fiction has been published by Blink-Ink and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, his criticism by Chicago Review and 3:AM Magazine, and his scholarly articles by the European Journal of Philosophy and Philosophy and Literature (forthcoming).

Some Facts Regarding The Temple Of The Bearded Man At Chichen Itza

by Paul Goldberg

Some Facts Regarding the Temple of the Bearded Man At Chichen Itza.

By Lester Tell[1]

At one end of the Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza is the North Temple, also known as the Temple of the Bearded Man. On the back wall of this structure is a portrayal of a tall, fair-skinned, bearded figure that differs from the typical portrayal of Mayan warriors and priests. Through the years there has been speculation as to the origin and meaning of this image. It is known that the priests portrayed here are associated with the feathered serpent Kukulkan.[2]

E.H. Thompson[3] attributed the figure to a legendary Toltec chieftain who conquered the Yucatan. He was said to have been fair-skinned and bearded. His symbol was the feathered serpent. Other stories have come down through the years that spoke of visitations by fair-skinned bearded divinities.

We have come into possession of a document that suggests another possible explanation for the image at the North Temple. This document is comprised of fragments of a letter written by an obscure Kabbalist, Jacob Levi of Burgos, Spain. Jacob Levi was known later in life as Jacob the Blind.

Little has come down to us regarding Jacob Levi. He was born in 1098 in Leon; the date of his death is unknown. His name has been associated with Abraham Abulafia, a proponent of ecstatic Kabbalah. From descriptions found in the small amount of extant writing available, it appears that Jacob Levi was able to enter a mystical state by the contemplation of various combinations of Hebrew letters while exercising control of the breathing. This trance-like state was believed to result in one’s soul leaving the body with the ability to undertake a journey.

Jacob developed a small circle of followers, one of whom was Avner of Burgos. Avner was considered to be a Neo-Platonist. As is seen in much Neoplatonic writing, he speaks of reality as being generated by a series of emanations from the godhead. The Sephiroth—the Kabbalistic term for these emanations—were frequently imagined as taking the shape of a tree.[4] In Avner’s one surviving piece of writing there is the following reference to his teacher, Jacob the Blind:[5]

“Towards the end of his life, after the blindness overtook him, the master would speak of souls of the righteous taking flight and attaching to the tree.[6] As Jacob Levi, blessed be his name, spoke these words he would be overcome with ecstasy and wonder.”

Some theosophic aspects of Avner’s thought regarding the nature of the Sephirot appear to have been taken up by the Zohar, but the ecstatic aspects which Avner received from Jacob Levi were forgotten.

Jacob Levi most likely wrote the above-mentioned letter around 1130 C.E.[7] The contents illuminated some of Avner of Burgos’s comments regarding his master. It unexpectedly added another possibility as to the origins of the Bearded Man image on the North Temple at Chichen Itza.

Below are the salient parts of the material:

“In the year 4890 in the month of Elul with the help of the Holy One, may His Name be exalted, while contemplating the sacred letters in a certain way with the breath, I accomplished what I had long hoped for. My soul was separated from my body and I flew through the heavens as if in a chariot and visited a peculiar country. It was hot and steamy; overrun with greenery. In the city of this wondrous place was a pyramid such as existed in the land of Egypt from whence our Teacher Moses, blessed be his name, brought us forth.”

He goes on to describe his time in Chichen Itza where he encounters Kukulkan, the feathered serpent whom he associates with Samael, the serpent in the Garden of Eden:[8] 

“I sojourned there for 40 days and came to know the priests of the people of the city of that pyramid and saw many things, some wondrous, some evil. The city is large, filled with myriads of buildings and temples. Like the Moabites, the people engage in idol worship. There is a feathered serpent who flies through the air like Samael who descended into the Garden of Eden [may the Holy Name protect us from evil]. There are sacrifices made on an altar at the top of the pyramid and in a body of water. Heaven forbid that the words to describe the horror of these sacrifices should pass my lips.”

Presumably, Rabbi Jacob is referring here to human sacrifice which was known to have occurred both in a chamber in the pyramid [El Castillo] at Chichen Itza and in the ‘sacred cenote’.[9]

“We sat under the heavens and the priest told me that the bright band of stars across the night sky that we say is the river of fire from Daniel’s dream[10] was to them a tree where the world began. From this tree came forth all things that men know. When I heard these words, I looked up and saw the heavenly lights glittering with color. They began to swirl and dance and then there came into being a magnificent tree which we know to be the Sephiroth—the divine emanations of that which is beyond thought and words. This I saw with my own eyes.”

Jacob the Blind’s vision of the night sky is a representation of the Sephiroth as a tree. This is, as noted, a commonly occurring motif in Kabbalistic material. On the back wall of the temple is a representation of an elaborate tree said to be the Mayan version of the axis mundi—the ‘world tree’. Some Mesoamerican scholars believe the Milky Way, when in vertical position, was thought by the Mayans to be this ‘world tree’.[11]

The images inscribed on the temple wall are believed to portray a narrative of the ascension of the rulers of the city.[12] If Jacob Levi did indeed encounter the priests and inhabitants of Chichen Itza, the occasion of his visit might well be memorialized as the bearded man pictured on the wall of the North Temple.

The events related above, had they occurred, indicate a contact between Spain and the New World several hundred years before the era of the Conquistadores. Such events might also imply a Judeo-Mayan connection heretofore unrecognized.


[1] From The Modern Antiquarian: 49, pp. 140-144 [1994]. This communication was published by Dr. Tell in what was apparently the final issue of this journal. [P.E.G.].

[2] The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.

[3] Journal of American Antiquities Society; October 1933

[4] See e.g. Sholem, G: Kabbalah, Keter Pub. House, Jerusalem, 1974.

[5] MS 127: Rider University Library.

[6] See Sefer Bahir 119 where similar language can be found

[7] Tell, L: Modern Antiquarian; 43; 1989, pp. 34-50.

[8] He [i.e. Samael] flies through the air [Targum to the book of Job]: The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

[9] For example see J. Eric S. Thompson: Maya History and Religion, 1970; University of Oklahoma Press. Norman, Oklahoma.  A cenote is a naturally formed sinkhole found in abundance in the Yucatan. Human remains and other sacrificial objects have been recovered from the ‘Sacred Cenote’ at Chichen Itza. Note: J. Eric S. Thompson is not to be confused with E. H. Thompson—see above. Both men were noted Mayan Scholars.

[10] Daniel 7:10 i.e. the Milky Way.

[11] Freidel, Schele, Parker: The Maya Cosmos. 1993; Quill, William Morrow. NY.

[12] Ibid. Freidel, Schele, Parker.

~

Bio:

Paul Goldberg is a practicing physician near Philadelphia (United States). He has a long time interest in the commonalities between myth and religion. He would like to explore how speculative fiction might work well when intentionally based on myth. This is his first publication.

The Rise And Fall Of Collective Consciousness

by Anthony Lechner

An Annotated Bibliography

The Antiquity of God Particles by Rene Pliggins

In this dry, yet fascinating history of what the ancients called mass particles or material existence (what we understand as monada, they crudely called matter), Pliggens explores a variety of competing theories that attempt to explain the nature of being. The 20th through 21st centuries developed a model of understanding that explored a variety of forces or fields consisting of electromagnetism, gravitation, strong interactions, weak interactions, and even a field where the rapid decaying of energy created material particles. Though it seems obvious why now, they were never able to unite all of these theories into one functional theory, I surmise the main problem with the ancients’ lack of understanding regarding the nature of existence rests in their myopic view of reality. Rather than exploring the internal structure and causation of consciousness, they were exploring the external effects of consciousness. It is like a child being distracted by pretty much anything within their field of vision. They focus on the phenomena rather than the internal components of what makes observation possible. Because they didn’t understand consciousness, they reduced it to brain chemistry without recourse to the common understanding of interdimensional ontology that is known today. Yet, the experimentations the ancients did with subatomic structures opened the door to the discovery of quark decimals.

The Discovery of QD: Quark Decimals by Stephany Critus

In this historical analysis, Critus argues that the discovery of quark decimals single-handedly started the movement of social justice. I admit, it is difficult to think of a conception of reality where QDs are not the starting point. QDs started the process of collective consciousness. QDs provided evidence that the universe continuously folds and unfolds itself endlessly. Like the notion of pi being a number whose decimal place is non repeating and infinite, the existence of consciousness is infinite (in both parts and whole). Although at this point in history, the understanding of monada was half a millennium away from being discovered, the implications of QDs in the creation of synthetic half protons is undeniable. After all, it was the union of these conscious particles that led to the half proton. To think there was a time that people believed in some sort of unconscious substance is absurd. Unconscious is the wrong term here, more like non-conscious. They actually believed consciousness was a myth. How is a civilization supposed to overcome the plight of pains, poverty, sickness, narcissism, and all the other long, lost and forgotten causes of everything wrong with society by believing that consciousness is a myth? It is a wonder how much sooner science would have progressed if ancient scientists weren’t so opposed to reality being consciousness itself. I conjecture the problem was within what they called the uncertainty principle. Ancient scientists failed to see commonality within various functions. They were too obsessed with difference to fully grasp the similarities within wavefunctions. There were not two non-conscious entities, but rather entities bonded through consciousness. There is no such thing as without. There is only within.  

The Modernization of Synthetic Half Protons by Sagorny Simone

Simone’s history of this time period is refreshing. While it is hard to believe there was once a time of violence, conflict, and misunderstanding, Simone shows the reader how the transformation, really the evolution, occurred. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to live in the first generation of the synthetic half proton users. To instantly feel the consciousness of not only the whole collective existence of humanity, but more specifically those in your immediate vicinity, especially in a time where pain, poverty, and persecution existed. These generations cured so many social injustices. It is one thing to speculate about the right way to live, and quite another to fully experience the consciousness of others and their lifeworld. While there was resistance at first to the mandates regarding synthetic half protons, the benefits outweighed the fear of losing one’s self. In fact, just the opposite happened. Individuality was heightened because there were no more marginalized people. Each life was experienced and celebrated. Personal freedom and growth needs the collective in order to properly come into fruition. Too much of history is shadowed by and rooted in fear. It wasn’t until all members of society installed the synthetic half protons that the concept of ethics became a historical triviality. It was the equivalent of having what the ancient’s called a divine mind. This is what they should have called the god particle, even though it was created by the work of humanity.

Monada and Interdimensional Ontology by Gottfried von Newton

Over 1,000 years (that’s over 40 generations) of collective consciousness passed by before the work of GVN brought forth the monada and undeniable existence of interdimensional beings. Even as a first-year secondary student, I am able to grasp what GVN called the horizon of monada. I perceive it more as a silent presence. The monada is the link between the other dimension, and I am almost there. It is consciousness itself, as far as I can interpret. GVN talks about the seeing. I’ve always imagined it is like seeing a big eyeball in the sky watching you, but I know that is not the case. And though I can perceive what my elders have experienced, I have not experienced it myself. I speculate there are levels of the synthetic protons, but I am not sure if they are activated by thoughts, biological age, or other worldly experiences. The monada is the link to the interdimensional being that is conscious of our existence – or perhaps created our existence. (This connects to Critus’ thesis that there are an infinite number of worlds.) When we become aware of the interdimensional existence, we become part of the unfolding, which is discussed in the last book I read for this project.

The Unfolding of Cosmos Generating: What It Means to Be Created by Ching Dao 

While the concept of a cosmic deity has existed since time immemorial, Dao became one. Dao was the first to create their own universe. At least the first human to do such. Dao argues that monada are more like units of consciousness that can be shaped or molded at will. The trick is in the unfolding—the way in which monada transverse through dimensions. The monada that make up our reality are the same monada from the interdimensional, which are the same monada Dao used to create a new universe. Creation is transformation, the union of opposites. Dao writes there is no precise location where left turns into right, large into small, or up into down. In like manner, there is no precision between the collective and the individual. From the collective we rise, and toward the individual we fall, only to rise again. The monada bind the opposing forces of consciousness. There is no existence without perception, and because of this truth, Dao affirms that each monada is capable of creating its own universe. Dao managed to unfold a billion years of creation from only 60 years of his own monada. The destiny of being created (being transformed) is to become the creator. I feel better equipped, after reading this book, to transform my monada into my own personal universe and watch it unfold.

~

Bio:

Anthony Lechner lives in Idaho, USA. He is a special education teacher and philosophy instructor.

Go Paleo!

by Louis Evans

So what IS the PaleoBomb™ diet?

While most diets have hard-to-follow rules and arbitrary restrictions, like “don’t eat anything green on Thursdays,” the PaleoBomb diet is real simple. In fact, we can describe it in a single sentence:

If your primitive ancestors didn’t eat it, neither should you!

Every animal’s nutritional needs are determined by the environment in which it evolved, and humans are no different! For modern humans, that environment was the blasted, apocalyptic wasteland that existed in the aftermath of the Cataclysm.

While creationist Beyoncists continue to insist that the Cataclysm was God Bey’s just and wrathful punishment upon a hateful world, which will eventually be reborn with Her glorious return, scientists today agree that, actually, the ancient pagan myths were right all along! The Cataclysm was a global thermonuclear conflagration that occured at the end of the Zero War and ushered in the world we know today!

Armed with this understanding, nutritionists have uncovered the diet that our ancestors relied on as they picked through the rubble of the destroyed civilization of the Dawn Age. And if you adopt this diet, you will have the same fitness success that allowed your ancestors to triumph over the roving bands of mutant badgers, and you, too can once more take your place at the top of the food chain!

The PaleoBomb diet breaks down into three major categories:

90%: Packaged Snacks

In the immediate aftermath of the Cataclysm, vast clouds of dust blocked out the sky, killing all plants. And while we’ve all seen classic pulp illustrations of wasteland survivors bravely hunting down rats, scientists now believe that the Cataclysm-era rats and cockroaches hunted each other into extinction within mere weeks.

With no access to fresh vegetables or meat, our ancestors relied primarily on processed and pre-packaged food from the Dawn Civilization. These food products were rich in dense calories, and would have powered our ancestors through hard days foraging for useful relics and nights fighting for limited room in makeshift underground shelters.

While many heritage snacks and flavored beverages have been lost forever, nutritional scientists believe that some modern snack foods nearly approach the same calorie densities of the Doereeto, or the fabled Twin-key. Make sure to get the vast majority of your daily calories from foods like SEISMOCRYSPS™ and NUKEPUFFS™.

Fun fact! The secret recipe for Coka Coala, long though lost in the Cataclysm, was recently rediscovered when the Ravagers conquered Atlanta to transform it into the “Agony Capital” of their “Empire of Woe”. You can now buy Authentic Dawn-Age Coka Coala POWERBEVERAGE from a RavageMart near you.

Truth in advertising laws require us to mention here that CROGDOR FOODS, the maker of both Seismocrysps and Nukepuffs, is the primary funder for the Paleo Diet Foundation. “Crogdor! The Name You Trust, To Nuke Your Puffs.” And if you can’t trust the geniuses that nuked your puffs, who can you trust?

9%: Cannibalism

Processed, prepackaged foods provided our wasteland ancestors with all the calories they needed, but humans also require proteins and other micronutrients that can’t survive the packaging process. What was their secret?

It is a well-known fact that any nutrient one human needs can be found inside another human. And the anthropological record is clear: our ancestors ate each other, a lot.

Fortunately, cannibalism today is a bit more genteel than the deadly game of cat and mouse played by two ancestral gas-mask-wearing desperados in the irradiated ruins of a city—though think of the cardio benefits! Nowadays, you can get “long pig” from any certified mortuary butcher in most major cities, and nearly every small town.

Fun fact! People used to call pork “short man”.

1%: Radioactive Waste

The final key ingredient of the PaleoBomb diet is radioactivity! While the best evidence suggests that our wasteland ancestors tried to minimize the radioactivity in their diet, today the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction! Because of the Decontamination Projects the average meal today contains literally zero detectable radioisotopes, and that’s far too few.

Many companies today will sell high-quality radioactive supplements at affordable prices, containing all the cesium-137 and iodine-131 your body needs. Or, if your budget is tight, you can just crack open your smoke detector for a quick bite.

[WARNING: Radioisotopes are known to the state of New New New California to cause cancer, birth defects, and Super-Mutant syndrome.]

Is that all?

No way! PaleoBomb’s not just a diet—it can be a whole lifestyle! For example, many people today complain of back pain. But did you know that our wasteland ancestors spent over half their lives hunched over in the subterranean tunnels of their underground shelters? The next time your spine starts aching, just make like a Cataclysm survivor and hunch! And there are countless more lifeways from the Wasteland Era you can adopt, from mutant-hunting to worship of dread atomic deathgods. The sky’s the limit!

PaleoBomb is a journey—from our healthier past, and to a fitter future—that we can all go on together! Remember the PaleoBomb motto: if your ancestors did it, it must be good for you.

~

Bio:

Louis Evans is a science fiction author living and working in NYC. Louis has previously been published in Analog, Escape Pod, Interzone, and other magazines, and is a member of SFWA and of the Clarion West class of 2020/2021.

Pedagogy Of The Disembodied

by Peter T. Donahue

Dear Educator,

Thank you for registering for Pedagogy of the Disembodied, a two-day webinar designed to provide you with both philosophical discussion and concrete takeaways for classroom practice.

The Connectome Mapping Disaster began in 2032, and it is now estimated that one in seven students in secondary classrooms (grades 9-12) is disembodied. This number is only expected to rise. With the aid of tablets, touch-input whiteboards, and other technology, many teachers have begun adapting their pedagogical approaches to the needs of cloud-based students. However, studies have shown a persistent achievement gap between flesh-and-blood and disembodied students.

This weekend, you will have access to the following sessions, presented by leading educators, school administrators, and psychologists:

Saturday, AM session

Differentiating Instruction for Mixed Bodied / Disembodied Classrooms

Presenter: Dr. David Lu

Many staple techniques in the classroom, such as hands-on activities, group projects, and even the process of note taking, are valuable because of what we know about how physically embodied students learn. Social context, muscle memory, even the spatial layout of a room all affect learning—if you have a body, that is. In this session, Dr. Lu will take participants through a series of classroom activities modified for the bodiless. Even if you are already employing many of these techniques, the session will be a valuable refresher.

Saturday, PM session

Are “Disembodied” Students “Disabled”?

Presenter: Jeanine Stackhouse

In an open discussion format, Ms. Stackhouse will present her controversial claim that disembodied students fare best in classrooms where teachers believe them to be disabled. “It’s not so much a question of the students’ abilities as a question of the teacher’s mindset,” says Stackhouse. In her trademark no-nonsense way, she will address questions about the psychological traits and beliefs of teachers who succeed with disembodied students. You may leave this session convinced that “Belief is a Muscle,” to borrow the title of Ms. Stackhouse’s blog.

Sunday, AM session

The Instructional Challenges of Non-bodied Ontological Schemas

Presenter: Dr. Gita Chowdhury

Many disembodied students have been in the cloud since early childhood, and thus have no physical experiences upon which to base their understanding of the world around them. Cloud-based students, Dr. Chowdhury argues, can’t be asked to “pick themselves up and dust themselves off” after a failure, or to “stretch themselves out of their comfort zones.” It is just as senseless to praise them for “knocking it out of the park.” Following a deconstruction of structural metaphors commonly used in the classroom, Dr. Chowdhury will guide you through a deep evaluation of the ways your language might perpetuate achievement gaps.

Sunday, PM session

Equity in Assessing Cloud-Based Intelligences

Presenter: Lorenzo Williams

The traditional constraints on test-taking — a secure room, a time limit, no access to online tools — has long been eroded by changing social and technological norms. Now, cloud-based students have rendered these restraints completely meaningless. In this session, participants must bring a quiz or test for workshop, and will leave with a valid asynchronous, aspatial, cheating-resistant assessment.

We are looking forward to working with you this weekend. Know that passionate educators like you are leading the way to a better future. As a disembodied person myself, I would not be where I am today without the patient, kind assistance of teachers like you.

Kind Regards,

Pamela Olenska v2.81

Director, Cloud Nine Educator Workshops

~

Bio:

Peter T. Donahue lives with his wife and children in New Jersey, where he teaches Creative Writing. He’s a southpaw, obsessive font-spotter, grapheme-color synesthete, and chronically dehydrated. His speculative fiction has appeared in Metaphorosis, Ripples in Space, and No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book.

A Brief History Of Procrastination Theory

by Darren Goossens

Ludwig Wergenergener

Ph.D. (Oxon.), Dip. Ed.(Utrecht), D.Sc. (Knutsford)

The initial work on procrastination theory was begun in the late 1930s by Professor Bing Salinski of Edward Lear Memorial University, Chipping Ongar; but he never got around to publishing his results. His notebooks languished unnoticed in a desk drawer until an inquisitive postgraduate student reopened them in 1965. She then put them down again and had lunch. In 1979 the notebooks were passed on to the archival librarian of the East Thwurp Mechanics Institute, where the most recent research has taken place.

Salinski’s highly mathematical, yet uniquely desultory, treatment involves what he called ‘something or other, I’ll come up with a proper name later’, and which has since become known as ‘procrastinative calculus’. This is not procrastination as performed by an undergraduate but a specifically formulated branch of mathematics whose fundamental operations are indifferentiation and disintegration.

Salinski’s formalism has helped unveil the underlying physical nature of procrastination, and the nature of the procrastination field, a real physical vector field that interacts directly with neurons in the brain and, regardless of the position of the observer, is directed backwards at all points. The theory also aids in the construction of a classification scheme, in which we have oscillatory procrastination, known as dithering, and circularly polarised procrastination or ‘going around in circles’.

Fillingham, during his sabbatical year at East Thwurp, investigated second-order procrastination, whereby he procrastinated by discussing procrastination. One afternoon, when he was laid up with a broken leg and could find absolutely nothing else to do, he found time to formulate his laws of procrastination:

1) An object at rest will remain at rest if it possibly can;

2) Every inaction has a larger and opposite inaction;

3) This law has not been formulated yet.

And in his final, ground-breaking paper (which now sits under his coffee cup in his office), Fillingham showed, much to everyone’s relief, that we should not study procrastination theory as it is logically inconsistent to do so.

The E

~

Bio

Darren Goossens is a writer, editor and educator, based in Australia. He has published a little bit of short fiction, and coauthored some physics text books, in which he did not write about procrastination theory.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors of CYBIMPLANT INC held at 10:00 AM on 14 May 2036

AS RECORDED BY: RICK NOVY

PRESENT:

CHAIRMAN:

Kermit Sayman

PRESIDENT/CEO:

Louis Gormant

VICE PRESIDENTS:

Derek Fong

Khin-Khin Tanaka

Michel LaFond

DIRECTORS:

Jose Herrera

QUORUM: Met

AGENDA: (1) Action Regarding Delinquent Payments on Majority-Owned implant customers.

1.1  The board considered and unanimously approved the Draft Minutes of the meeting of 7 May, 2036 (DOC:CII-BM-20360507).

2.1  Mr. Sayman opened discussion of the first and only agenda item by displaying a graphic depicting the P&L figures for the current quarter. Cybimplant is bleeding capital and projections indicate a loss for the seventh consecutive quarter.  Mr. Sayman also reminded the board that Cybimplant has not issued a quarterly dividend for over a year, and B shares are at a historic low on the NASDAQ.

2.2  Mr. Sayman presented figures showing majority-owned customers as a percentage of all customers to be 7.2%, numbering 381,600 individuals. The percentage of delinquent accounts is 17%, numbering nearly 65,000 individuals at a total cost of over $90M in bad debt per month.

2.3  Mr. Sayman proposed Cybimplant implement a repossession program to recover the bad debt and bring the quarter into the black. He also suggested Cybimplant could initiate a secondary market program to monetize the repossessed implants.

2.4  Mr. Sayman requested open discussion on the agenda topic.

2.5  Mr. LaFond moved that the discussion of a secondary market program be tabled.

2.6  The board recorded its approval to table a discussion of a secondary market program.

2.7  Mr. Herrera asked Mr. LaFond for an approximate ROI on the cost of implementing and maintaining a repossession team. Mr. LaFond estimated ROI to be 41% during the first year, gradually dropping to a baseline of 15% over five years under a logistic function model.

2.8  Mr. Tanaka asked Mr. LaFond whether a 41% ROI would be sufficient to overcome the negative cash flow for Q2. Mr. LaFond said initial calculations indicate that as very likely.

2.9  Mr. Fong suggested shareholders will demand a dividend in Q3 if Cybimplant shows a profit in Q2. Mr. Gormant took the action item to write a shareholder letter to be mailed with Q2 results.

2.10 Mr. Herrera inquired whether a repossession program would include purchase plan delinquencies or be restricted to lease delinquencies.

2.11 Mr. Sayman reminded the board that purchase plan customers agreed to different language and expressed concern that the legal department would need beyond the end of Q2 to complete analysis and create language to justify repossession defensible in a court of law.

2.12 The board unanimously approved tabling a discussion of purchase plan delinquency repossession until the legal team completes its analysis.

2.13 Mr. LaFond requested clarification on whether life-critical implants would be included in the repossession program, as not including them might impact the ability of Cybimplant to eliminate the Q2 negative cash flow. Mr. Gormant reminded the board that lease customers must agree to all contract terms before an implant is installed, regardless of the implant purpose, and repossession of delinquent leased equipment is always a possibility in any industry.

2.14 Mr. Tanaka expressed concern that repossession of life-critical implants might result in a drain on revenues in the form of wrongful death lawsuit defense. Mr. Sayman stated that lawsuits are a recognized and budgeted cost of doing business and wrongful death lawsuits were expected to be well within acceptable numbers for the industry.

2.15 Mr. Gormant moved that the proposal be brought to a vote. The motion was seconded by Mr. Fong. The board recorded its unanimous approval of the creation of a repossession program for delinquencies under lease for majority-owned customers. Mr. Tanaka was given the action item to implement the decision immediately.

3.1 Mr. Gormant moved to adjourn. The motion was seconded by Mr. Herrera. The board adjourned at 10:38 AM.

~

Bio:

Rick Novy is an engineer by day and writer by night. He lives in Arizona. Learn more at ricknovy.com.

Red Card

by Madeline Barnicle

FIFA and the AUNZ organizing committee thank fans and players around the world for the trust you have placed in us. We look forward to hosting the following World Cup, and we trust that the forty-eight finalists will compete in the spirit of fair play and friendship.

After much deliberation, the organizing committee has declined to accept the application of the Autonomous Martian Territories (hereafter, “Mars”) to compete in the qualifying tournament. We recognize that this decision will be disappointing to many. This is a reflection of current FIFA policies, and we do not intend it to set a precedent for other sports governing bodies.

FIFA traditionally has six continental zones, or regions, from which teams qualify. (Because New Zealand will qualify automatically as co-hosts, and Australia are currently affiliated with the Asian zone, the remaining Oceania Football Confederation teams have been exceptionally drawn against other Asian teams for this tournament.) Mars, for somewhat obvious reasons, does not have an existing affiliation with any continental federation. This is not an insurmountable barrier, however; despite geographical constraints, Israel has been variously part of the Asian, Oceanian, and European federations.

Assuming an existing federation was willing to allow the Martian team entry, qualification would likely require them to play home-and-away legs against some or all of the other competitors in that zone. Many teams have voiced their opposition to travelling to space for competitive or even unofficial matches; notably, the friendly match scheduled between clubs FC Barcelona and Bayern München at the RoyCro Multiplex was cancelled after athletes expressed concern that the travel would needlessly disrupt their training regimen. Many fan organizations also noted that, while a potential revenue opportunity for the clubs, the match would have been played almost entirely in front of residents of the United States Lunar Territories and have been inaccessible to local supporter groups. After that controversy, national teams such as Scotland and Chinese Taipei preemptively declared they would not be willing to travel to matches in non-Earth areas until a more consistent policy was implemented for which teams qualified as “national.” (FIFA does not intend this document to resolve that question.)

We have been in consultation with the current Mars staff as they applied for participation. It was impossible to travel to inspect their stadiums or training facilities, as accepting funds for travel to Mars would have far exceeded the stipends permitted in the Transparency and Oversight Standards of 2033. However, the virtual reality reconstructions of these buildings suggest that they are well-maintained and in compliance with regulations. If and when travel to Mars is feasible for opposing teams, there will be little significant investment needed to bring the pitches up to international standard. The altered uniforms and artificial grasslike fields may present a challenge for visitors unused to this terrain, but it is not an unreasonable disadvantage since the pitch conditions affect both teams equally. Therefore, as with Bolivia’s high-altitude stadium, it should be possible to host games.

Fabrice Ekoko, a former manager of the Mars team, has stated that they would be willing to remain Earthside for several months to play their qualification matches in an abbreviated timeframe. The 2025 guidelines on scheduling international matches were written in the context of players who split time between their national teams and domestic clubs. Because the Martian league is not professionalized, we expect that clubs would be willing to release their players for such a compressed qualifying series, so the guidelines could be waived in this case.

However, we believe that the World Cup is not only a celebration of athleticism; it is also a celebration of national spirit. Regardless of its political status, a team unable to play any games in a “home” stadium in front of compatriots is not fully experiencing the opportunity for peaceful competition that the World Cup provides. There are a few exceptions, such as Iraq, where political violence has sometimes made home games impractical. Mars, however, is very socially stable and its population can experience spectator sport in venues other than the World Cup. Rather than make accommodations for a lessened experience, we believe Mars ought to wait until it has the transit infrastructure to play meaningful games against opposing teams, wherever that may be.

It is likely that, were the Mars men’s national team approved to participate in World Cup qualification, their women’s team would also apply to the next Women’s World Cup tournament. However, young men and women are not always on equal footing when it comes to interplanetary travel. Samples of liability contracts from Martian settlements such as Borealis III and 6 Noach suggest that many more women than men have voluntarily agreed to forgo extramartian travel as a condition of their sponsorship, due to concerns about the effects of radiation on egg cells. Certainly, the details of any specific individual, footballers or otherwise, are private matters. Nevertheless, in a roster of twenty-three healthy athletes, it is likely that at least one would be contractually obliged not to play matches on Earth. Giving male players the opportunity to repeatedly travel, when their female counterparts do not necessarily have that right, would be at odds with FIFA’s mission of promoting diversity in sport.

Other sports’ governing bodies have taken, and will continue to take, different approaches to extraterrestrial sport. For individual rather than team sports, it is increasingly likely that financially-independent athletes will travel to and from Earth in the course of their career. The IWF recognizes its own set of weightlifting records set on the moon and on Mars, which exist alongside the records set in Earth gravity. Table tennis player Sung Bowen competed as an Independent Martian Athlete at the last Summer Olympics. FIFA will continue to monitor the challenges and rewards of non-Earth football, but with the upcoming qualification cycle about to begin, now is the time to issue clear guidelines on eligibility. Questions may be directed to Eileen Bogaerts of the AUNZ team or Gabriel Lopez of FIFA.

~

Bio:

Madeline Barnicle holds a PhD in mathematical logic from UCLA, and now lives in Maryland. She enjoys worldbuilding fantastical settings, especially simulating their sports leagues.

How to Check if Your Peacekeeper-2000 Is Loaded

by David F. Shultz

Congratulations on your purchase of a fully-licensed Peacekeeper-2000 from Interplanetary Defense Innovations, LLC. The PK2Ktactical squad assault machinegun features fully automatic plasma discharge effective to 800 meters, built-in grenade launcher compatible with the full line of IDI minicell cartridges (please see attached ordering form 2A for tactical grenade options), and the artificial intelligence SmartKill(TM) system. The PK2K is your total peacekeeping solution.

Loyalty, duty, honor, purpose. IDI understands what it means to be a soldier. For more than three-hundred years IDI has provided peacekeeping solutions, combining cutting-edge developments in military science and technology from across the galaxy. We stood with the Terrans on Ceta-Gamma. We were there for the uprising on Ares-6. We are the leading supplier of armaments for the Alpha-Quadrant Allegiance, the only manufacturer approved by both the Cerulean Empire and the Legion of the Fallen, and the official sponsor of Captain Kelly Donovan and the Freedom Brigade. We are now proud to offer the PK2K assault model as our flagship assault weapon for close quarters combat.

You need a weapon that’s as reliable as you are, that’s as much a part of you as you are a part of your people (or faction). Whether you are a brave freedom fighter defending your homeworld of Yll’Risa from villainous imperial tyrants, or a noble soldier of the empire pacifying the terrorist rebel scum of Yll’Risa, IDI has solutions for your peacekeeping needs.

The PK2K is equipped with biometric fingerprinting to ensure that your trusted weapon does not fall into enemy hands. This is your weapon—it’s a part of you. If the PK2K does not recognize its user, it will discharge the fusion cartridge through our patented KILLoWATT system, neutralizing all threats within a radius of five meters. Upon initial activation, please follow calibration procedures to ensure the PK2K syncs with your identity. In accordance with standard assault weapon good practices, please ensure that your weapon is safely secured when not in your possession. IDI is not liable for any injuries and/or deaths to owner, family, squad members, or others as a result of accidental activations of the KILLoWATT system due to negligence of the owner or failure to follow weapon protocol as outlined in the full terms of your license.

Thanks to our AI SmartKill(TM) system, you don’t even need to pull the trigger — in Kill Assist mode, the weapon will discharge automatically during sweeps to maximize tactical advantage and lethality when directed towards legitimate combatants. The AI recognizes targets, accepts strategic orders from command, coordinates activity across squads, and maximizes the effectiveness of your unit, firing when you’ve got the perfect shot. The SmartKill system automatically tracks confirmed kills, facilitating strategic planning and promotion decisions. To reduce friendly fire incidents, your PK2K comes packaged with four IDI Friendly Forces ID chips (please see attached ordering form 2C for additional squad tag options).

Owing to our state-of-the-art power system, you never need to check if your PK2K is loaded! IDI‘s microfusion cartridge revolutionizes the industry, ensuring your weapon is always ready to serve — the ideal firearm for the ideal fighter. The cartridge is to a weapon what a warrior is to their country: indispensable. That’s why we’ve designed the PK2K cartridge with a microfusion reactor for maximum reliability, providing a usage of 20+ years under proper conditions, and a life-time replacement guarantee. If at any time your fusion cartridge is operating below performance specifications, simply return the damaged or malfunctioning unit for safe disposal and IDI will provide a replacement. You never need to worry about spent cartridges again.

As a licensed PK2K owner, you are eligible for our Galaxy Hero rewards program, which awards free equipment and supplies based on individual and squad standings in the SmartKill performance ladder. Simply activate the SmartKill system, and your confirmed kills will automatically place you and your squad in the competitive ladder. IDI is proud to recognize soldiers and squads for outstanding performance in the field. Don’t just be a hero—be a Galaxy Hero!

The PK2K model is affiliated with the Trans-Galactic Bounty Program. As a licensed owner, you may opt-in to the TGBP in order to earn galactic credits and bonus rewards. Your weapon will be updated with bounty data, including locations, targets, and credit values. If the SmartKill system is active, your PK2K’s legitimate target list will include active bounties, so you can begin supplementing your income with freelance work and improve your ranking in the Galaxy Hero ladder. IDI is here to help you do what you do best.

Thanks to myriad industry and government partnerships, IDI is able to offer extended support to licensed veteran users of any series-1 IDI ground-level product, including the PK2K. If you have been afflicted during the course of your service by PTSD, loss of limbs, death, or any approved ailment specified in form 17-D, you may be eligible for credit assistance. Simply submit forms 16 A-through-D to their respective organizations’ appropriate channels or representatives. Void where prohibited by law. Additional limitations and restrictions may apply. Consult your organization’s relevant information services or human resources representative for locally applicable rules and regulations.

~

Bio:

David F. Shultz writes speculative fiction from Toronto, Canada, where he manages the 600-member Toronto Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers group, and is lead editor at TDotSpec. His over-fifty published works are featured or forthcoming through publishers such as Diabolical Plots and Third Flatiron. David holds degrees in cognitive science, philosophy, law, and education. Author webpage: davidfshultz.com/about

John XX

by Timons Esaias

The nearly complete suppression of Pope John XX from the pages of history is unparalleled in all the long, sad story of censorship. So thorough and so widespread has this suppression been, that it now seems impossible to guess, with any precision, how long he reigned, or, more surprisingly, even when.

[Encyclopaedists attempt to dismiss the matter by claiming that a clerical error in the Liber Pontificalis assigned two dates to John XIV, and thus confused some of the papal catalogues. Oddly, it did not confuse John XV, John XVI, John XVII, John XVIII or John XIX. We are asked to believe that the Vatican — which keeps such careful record of its papal names that it accepts the numbers claimed by antipopes — somehow lost count. This is absurd, no matter how often this lame excuse has been reprinted. It is an argument for the ignorant, a Sunday School cant. No serious scholar accepts it. -Ed.]

Some historians have conflated the missing John XX with the legend of Pope Joan: the woman who supposedly gave such extraordinary lectures at the University of Paris (all the while disguised as a man) that she was elevated to the papacy. Elevated to the papacy without being first a Cardinal, and by a unanimous vote of the College. Previously those who believed the Pope Joan story attempted to identify her with a certain John Anglicus, putative successor to Leo IV, but he is not listed in the catalogues either, and the name is probably just a piece of the same legend. Attempts have been made to tie her with other popes of known date (John XVII, Clement III) including, rather outrageously, Pius XI (in the 20th century!). Nonetheless, it is tempting indeed to conflate one unlisted pope with the other, especially when the names Joan and John are gender versions of each other.

Increasing the allure of this hypothesis that she was John XX is that the story of Pope Joan is first recorded in the 1240s. This creates a space of two centuries after the death of John XIX (in 1032) into which to insert this elusive reign, which is said to have ended in childbirth, exposure and violent death.

While this period most likely does enclose the suppressed reign of John XX, recent archeology reveals that “Pope Joan” is an updating of a legend from pre-Republican Rome. It seems that a woman infiltrated the office of pontifex maximus, a religious desecration so heinous that its discovery would require the immediate execution of the defiler, just as modern legend preserves.

Scholarship having thus deprived us of this easy solution to the problem, and endless hours of research among all the chronicles of medieval Christendom having uncovered as yet no clear candidate for the missing prelate, it would be beneficial, some think, to examine this question from the other end. From the cause.

What would lead the Church to utterly eradicate the name of one of its leaders from history?

History records many attempts to expunge certain figures from memory. Akhenaton attempted to replace the names of all the gods with that of Aten, and in his turn had his name chiseled out of monuments by his angry polytheistic successors. But neither attempt was sufficiently thorough. We still know the names of Akhenaton and the gods that ruled the earth before his birth.

King Arthur of Britain suffered considerable suppression by the Church, and his name is found in none of the chronicles preserved by monks. In Gildas, for instance, his battles are described and his government discussed, but it is as if the ruler of the Britons had no name. It is from Welsh poems that we know the name of Ambrosius’s successor, and from some Saint’s Lives that suggest the cause of the suppression of his name. In these tales Arthur is the bad guy, trying to extract taxes from the Church. In retribution, the Church moved to make his very name vanish. Again, however, they failed. We know Arthur’s name, and battles, and rough dates.

In the most recent century we have again seen this impulse to censorship in action, but despite the best efforts of the Soviet Encyclopedists, we still know the name of Beria, and that of Trotsky, and all the other original revolutionaries whom later leaders sought to outshine.

In these, and many other such cases — despite the best efforts of those who sought to erase — we know the names. Just as we know the names of many anti-popes through the ages, no matter how heretical or fraudulent or evil their rival rule.

But of John the Twentieth we have nothing, nothing but a blank in the papal lists, a missing designation between John XIX and John XXI. This suggests that his crime, if crime it was, must have been worse than mere political rivalry; worse than attempted taxation; worse than doctrinal originality; worse than heresy; and far, far worse than being a woman.

There are three main schools of thought on this issue, but all agree that whatever the cause of this suppression, John XX’s time on the papal throne must have been short. A reign of years, perhaps even of months, would have left traces even the most conscientious pursuer would not have found. Communications in those days were simply not reliable enough to enforce an order to suppress a name, and Church and royal rule was insufficiently rigorous for such a task. We would be more likely to find copies of the order to suppress the name than to find the name’s complete absence.

The primary theory (called the Berne Conjecture, after the location of its original proponents) is that Pope John XX was discovered to be worse than a mere heretic. Had he been a secret Jew or Muslim, however, this would have provided the Church an excuse for burnings, exiles, or new Crusades; none of which it shrank from using in this period. A practitioner of the Black Arts, or an alchemist, on the other hand, might have been a greater problem. In the mind of the public a woman, or a Jew, or a heretic might become Pope through deception. While deplorable, it casts no clear stain upon the office; and in those days before the Pope became infallible the fallibility of the College of Cardinals might be sensitive but it was not crucial.

But the first thought one has when hearing that the Pope was an alchemist or sorcerer is different. One is inclined to leap to the conclusion that it was special powers that brought him to the office. And this, goes the line of reasoning, threatens the office itself by implying the supremacy of magic over religion. Just as Peter gave short shrift to Simon Magus, so might the protectors of his throne to a magician successor.

Another theory, objected to as somewhat fanciful by sober theological historians, has nonetheless gained currency among Charismatics and Sanctificationists. Regarded as “New Age” by some critics, and as derivative of Dostoevsky by others, it predates both. A Dutch follower of Swedenborg, one Luther Diogenes Kuyptmann, wrote a short commentary on his master’s Arcana Coelestia in which he contended, in a brief footnote written in awkwardly phrased modern Latin, that John XX had been a heavenly angel. This angel, Kuyptmann asserts, lasted less than a day as Pope. Having declared it his purpose to divest the Church of both its property and temporal power, he was immediately dispatched (how one dispatches an angel is not made clear) by an outraged Curia.

Though the source of this story is unclear, and many attribute it to an unrecorded vision of Swedenborg, it has proven surprisingly resilient over the years. At least three separate scholars have visited the Vatican Archives in the last decade in an attempt to find corroboration; and there was a report in the 1950s that the KGB had found proof of the matter in a Russian Orthodox library, but nothing of this has surfaced in the post-Soviet era.

Those who have given serious consideration to this claim argue that the Church could easily have insisted that the angelic impostor was in fact a demon, and dispensed with the need for suppression. A similar argument can be applied to the last contending theory, except that in this case, unlike that of the reputed angel, there might have been awkward physical evidence to deal with. Evidence that might still reside in the bowels of Paris.

The hints upon which this third conjecture were first based are to be found in certain odd passages in both the Summa Theologiae and the Summa contra Gentiles of St. Thomas Aquinas. Amidst the discussions of such questions as How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?, or In the same place?, and Whether they have corporal bodies? are scattered several surprisingly modern inquiries. Aquinas asked whether “Intelligences live among the celestial spheres?” and “Can those in the upper air move from place to place without the passage of time?” and, rather intriguingly “Can the bodies of those who live among the fires of the upper air be burned while alive?”

Theologians over the years have tended to neglect these passages as of minor relevance, and a search of the standard database reveals no doctoral theses on these items, or any published paper in the last two hundred years. My own copy of Aquinas has a rather lame footnote suggesting that some of Marco Polo’s stories had raised questions about flying people and other fabulous types of humans and demons, hence these odd interludes.

Aquinas (1225-1274) lived in the last part of the period in which John XX can be assumed to have ruled, dying just two years before the investiture of John XXI. Just as his questions concerning angelic messengers remind the modern reader of a discussion of photons (no mass, instantaneous travel), so these questions make the modern reader think of extra-planetary aliens.

And if a true non-human from the sky was discovered in the papacy, this might give rise to a reaction of secrecy and suppression. This might especially be so if the problem was ongoing, even after the alien pope had been replaced.

Specifically, the question about a creature from the sky having a body that can’t burn while alive has encouraged a few thinkers to imagine that an auto-de-fé of the offending prelate had in fact been attempted. And failed.

One need look no further than the Vatican’s own art collection to find possible supporting evidence for this. A number of anonymous works, all dating from after 1180, as well as the works of known painters (3 Titians and 2 Botticellis, and a Theotokopoulos among them) right into the Renaissance contain an iconographic character, always in the background, known in art circles as The Chained Figure. His body is hulking, despondent, and his head usually shrouded, helmeted or hidden in shadow. He has typically been referred to as a symbol of sinners not yet redeemed by Christ, but there is no predecessor for such an image before the late 12th century, and it entirely disappears from Catholic art simultaneously with the shameful treaty of Pisa in 1664, in which the Pope surrendered abjectly to the demands of Louis XIV.

This is the precise time that the famous Man in the Iron Mask appears in French documents, imprisoned at Pignerol. This prisoner would die in the Bastille in 1703 and be buried (not traditionally cremated) in great secrecy.

Could Aquinas, the supporters of this Contact Conjecture ask, have been discussing a very specific case, one known to him personally? And could a man from the sky have somehow been made Pope, been discovered, dethroned, expunged from history, unsuccessfully burned at the stake, imprisoned, and have lived perhaps another 500 years?            

But that would be, as Montaigne used to say, altogether too fantastical.

~

Bio:

Timons Esaias is a satirist, poet, essayist and short fictionator. His works have appeared in twenty languages. He won the Asimov’s Readers Award and the Louis Award for poetry and was a finalist for the BSFA. He teaches in the Seton Hill University MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. He reads more than is probably good for him, sometimes in languages that have long ago died. Interests include chess, aikido, maritime history and military history. He spends entirely too much time inspecting coastal fortifications. People who know him are not surprised to learn that he lived in a museum for eight years.

Catalog For A Dead Planet

by Andrew Gudgel

Notice of an Auction of the Estate of Evelyn Chen-Ortiz

Auction Date: May 23, 3985, 1600-2100 hours. Preview May 21 and 22, 1200-1700 each day.

Location: Hillis Auctions, 567 Main Street, Suites 16a-c, Milwaukee, Republic of Wisconsin.  Map.  Directions.  Contact.

All items obtained off-world warranted to have passed through certified biological and/or radiological decontamination. All sales subject to a 15% buyer’s premium plus applicable taxes.

The highlight of this Auction is a collection of artifacts discovered on January (Beta Aquarii V) by John Barron Chen as part of his initial, privately-funded exploration of the planet (3880-3882). The following objects were part of Chen’s personal collection until his death in 3919 and have remained in the family until now. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own one or more of the only items from January still in private hands, and provenance documents signed by the Chen-Ortiz family will be provided for any item upon request. Please note that export of these items to countries not signatories of the UN Convention on Interstellar Artifacts is prohibited, documentation notwithstanding.

Lot No. 44 — Description: Chinese-style Beitie stone rubbing of a frieze in the “Temple of Two Monsters.” Framed, 1.0 meters wide by 2.0 meters long. Produced by Chen himself using Terran paper and Chinese calligraphy ink. Scene depicts rows of Januarians, first two pairs of forelimbs upraised, flanking an altar (?) upon which is heaped a possible food offering. Incised lines reach down from a sphere, perhaps indicating fire or divine power appearing above the offering. Estimate: 10000-12500 Standard Units.

Lot No. 72 — Description: Caftan 2.4435 meters long, 0.613 meters wide including sleeves, made of a blue synthetic polymer similar to nylon with quilted-in patches of unknown gray animal skin. Believed to be a ceremonial robe for clan gatherings or possibly clerical garb, as this artifact was removed from a single individual found facing a “congregation” of other individuals in a small building near the center of the city, believed to be a social hall or small temple. (Nomura’s theory that the garment is a cooking apron is unlikely, due to the low melting point and flammability of the synthetic cloth used in this item’s manufacture.) Other examples contain quilted-in material, but the use of animal skin in this caftan is unique. Estimate: 25000-35000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 93 — Description: Pair of Tannoak seeds. Identification of the plant that produced these seeds is tentatively accepted from iconography in multiple temple friezes. Found together, the wear patterns on the surface of each seed and the purposeful treatment with multiple coats of lipids indicate they may have been rolled against one another as the Januarian equivalent of stress balls or worry beads. Biochemical examination reveals that neither seed is viable. This is likely due to the sterilizing effects of gamma-ray pulsar PSR Q2132-0535 which passed through the Beta Aquarii system approximately 500 years ago. Estimate: 5000-10000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 98 – A “Singing Crystal.” Description: A single 1.629cm x 1.629cm x 1.629cm, slightly cloudy, off-white crystal composed of over 21 discrete chemical elements. Scanning the crystal with blue laser light between 4250 and 4500 angstroms produces exitons and polaritons which, as they collapse, produce an acoustic phenomenon described by Lauren Wilkerson, expedition xenotechnologist, as sounding like “a combination of chimes and a gently babbling stream.” Evidence of atomic-level manufacture indicates the object had some other primary/secondary purpose, perhaps data storage. Estimate: 35000-50000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 102 – “The First Skull.” Description: Skull of a Januarian in sapphire-glass case with rosewood base and brass mounts. This is the original object collected by Chen himself in the Necropolis. Sealed in shatterproof sapphire-glass and stored in a Carbon Dioxide/Nitrogen mixture that simulates the atmosphere of January to prevent degradation of the bone through oxidation. Prominent “Chief Ridges” located between the central and lateral eye sockets and the oral grinding plates indicate what is believed to be the status/mating hierarchy of the individual within the social collective. The rosewood base and brass mounts were added by Chen the year after his return to Earth. Estimate: 100000-150000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 204 — Description: Two Codices written in an undeciphered Januarian script. Both items roughly 22.5cm by 30cm. The first codex is hand-written on 162 folded and linked panels of a thick paper made of organic material and bound in wooden boards. Carbon dating adjusted for Januarian historical CO2 uptake rates and conducted after the item’s return to Earth indicates a manufacture date of approximately 650 years before the exploration of January. Rubrication of initial letters in each “chapter” and the general quality of both materials and workmanship further suggest the codex was a religious text, possibly either a family heirloom or a collector’s item. Codex includes a later, tipped-in illustration of two suns—one violet-black, one yellow—rising over a mountain range, possibly a representation of PSR Q2123-0535’s passage through the stellar system. The second codex consists of nine folded and linked panels machine-printed on a thin paper of synthetic fibers. Illustrations inside suggest it may be a user’s manual for a piece of communications technology not yet discovered. Estimate: 20000-35000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 208 — Description: A doll. Made of a green and black organic cloth 0.4 meters long with three black glass beads for eyes. One bead “eye” unlike the others, likely a later replacement. The individual depicted appears to be an idealized, non-gendered Januarian as fore- and hind-limb pairs terminate only in rounded “hands” and “feet.” Fabric well-worn (well loved?) with some fading of the dyes and dirt stains on the soles of the hind limbs. Roughly two-centimeter repair on belly, possibly the owner’s handiwork, using black synthetic thread. Removed from a small, unmarked grave just outside the entrance to the Necropolis. Estimate: 2500-5000 Standard Units.

~

Bio:

Andrew Gudgel is a freelance writer and translator. His fiction has appeared at Writers of the Future, Flash Fiction Online, Escape Pod, InterGalactic Medicine Show and other publications. He lives in Maryland, USA, in an apartment slowly being consumed by books. You can find him at www.andrewgudgel.com.

Regarding Bridges

by J. L. Royce

July 6th, 1918

To the Editors –

Regarding The Bridges to the Island of Manhattan, and Corpses Depending therefrom:

I write to object in the most strenuous possible terms to the substance and tone of the editorial which appeared Monday last in this newspaper, entitled ‘The Crisis of Leadership’.

Since the very beginning of our first term, my administration has endeavored to strengthen our city: to root out the rot of Tammany corruption, and prepare America for its role in the War that consumes Europe. In the ‘puzzling’ election of November last (and despite political machinations) the people voted to stay the course. And now, strengthened, we face together an unprecedented challenge, a Crisis of Nature.

Let me first extend my sympathy to the families of all those affected. Our hearts go out to you, and all those suffering the consequences of this bizarre epidemic. Next, I thank our Police and militia forces, who are on the front line of our emergency every day.

This return of our dearly departed represents an event unprecedented in human experience. Science can and will arrive at an explanation—moreover, a solution—to this affliction.  But the medieval proposal cited in your editorial, to suspend these undead still writhing piteously from the superstructure of bridges and other public works of our Fair City as a ‘solution’ to this plague is unsupported by anything but superstition.

Interdiction at the bridges has already been established, as well as Neighborhood Watches. Yet certain groups propose the barbarous practice of gibbeting as a deterrent to the undead phenomenon. These vigilantes have taken it upon themselves to capture and display the undead in this fashion, aided and abetted by those who would see this administration torn down.

And where is our humanity, in proposing that these unfortunates, after capture, be put on public display? We become no better than the horror that we face. The fallacy should be apparent: the undead lack the power of reason, and respect no deterrent save for brute force. But of course, this ghastly display is a warning not to the dead, but the living.

Need I remind any of your readers that it is the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Great War who, through no fault of their own, first became the unthinking, puppet-like mob now shambling through Europe? Rising from their rude graves in the French countryside, they spread the contagion, through contact with the living, around the world. And now that this threat has reached our shores, those same Isolationists who sought to prevent America’s intervention in Europe would stigmatize our returning soldiers as possible plague-carriers!

We must not lose faith. Consider the threat posed by influenza – had medical science not fortuitously isolated the responsible virus within months, a catastrophe of global proportions might have developed. These same medical minds are already hard at work on this latest challenge.

I trust the readership will join with me in denouncing as unscientific any harmful ‘solutions’ such as this, and will put their faith, as I have, in American Science to solve this mystery and provide us all relief. When the Allies prevail (as they surely will) and our brave troops return, it must be to adulation, not superstition and fear. My recent re-election tells me that there is no ‘crisis’ in leadership, and I intend to do everything in my power to see our City through this emergency.

(Signed)

John Purroy Mitchel

Mayor, New York City

~

Bio:

J. L. Royce is an author of Science Fiction and macabre writings (and whatever else suits his fancy) residing in the upper American Midwest. Some of his other publications may be found at amazon.com/author/jlroyce.

On The Vastness Of Space And The Paucity Of Inhabited Worlds

by David Barber

St Augustine, a disciple of St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan in the years around 380AD, sat at the feet of that eminent Father alongside the unknown author of the Codex Alexandria. We may surmise this from the following facts.

As Augustine tells in Book IV of the Confessions, “When he [Ambrose] was reading, his eyes ran over the page and though his heart perceived the sense, his lips were silent.” The sight of a man reading for himself and not for others hints at books becoming their own justification. The Alexandria codex is fragmentary, but bears a dedication praising the learned Ambrose, and it too mentions this silent readership, tacita lectoris.

We know that a complete copy of the work, subsequently titled On The Vastness Of Space And The Paucity Of Inhabited Worlds, was made for the library of the Bishop of Antioch in the opening years of the fifth century, since it is described in the catalogue of books demanded by Theodosius II.

That new Emperor at Constantinople, already forced to accept the division of the Roman empire into East and West and unwilling to risk the fragile unity of the Church, cast suspicious eyes upon the See of Antioch, where the heresy of Arianism had only latterly been extinguished.

The copyist describes the work as containing the most perfect proof of the existence of God, and a lemma which insisted that the divine law, or necessitas, by which God made our world the laws of physics, as we might say – must allow the plurality of worlds, since to argue otherwise imposes limitations upon God.

In addition, crowded into the margin in another hand is the observation: concludes the absence of other inhabited worlds – which must follow if the proof is true.

About the nature of this vanished proof we can only speculate. It should not surprise us that merely human arguments about the existence of God do not resist scrutiny. The lesser may not contain the greater. Yet tellingly, no proof before has demanded that humankind be unique. Perhaps some ideas are fathered only once.

In the centuries since Ambrose, Augustine and the author of the lost Codex, we have indeed found a plurality of worlds, and our servants, the silicon descendants of our own minds, have visited some of them. 

And though we have listened carefully, it seems we are alone. As far as we can tell – and these days that is very far indeed – except for the miracle of ourselves, the universe is silent. Science has determined these facts but does not offer an explanation. It may be that others see no need to read aloud; or perhaps it is an infinite theatre with a solitary actor and no audience. In the sonorous Latin of that unknown hand, the most perfect proof of the existence of God demands there be a multitude of worlds, but perhaps the God who was proved to exist had no choice but to leave them vacant. Regretfully, it may be true that the worlds of creation echo to no voices but our own.

~

Bio:

David Barber lives in the UK. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, New Myths and Asimov’s. (He framed the cheque.) His ambition is to write.

Killing Death

by Carlton Herzog

The ability to defy aging and death has become a reality in our time. Now we no longer fear a hideous decay and decrepitude. Nor do we picture a pointless afterlife of singing Hosannas to a god of dubious virtue.

But even as the universe giveth, it taketh away. Where it extends the lives of the aged, it must surely deprive the unborn generations of theirs. The question then becomes how long should the young let the aged live before forcing them to their graves?

In Nekros v. U.S. the high court was asked to address that very question through the prism of the First Amendment. That Amendment both prohibits Congress from promoting one religion over another (Establishment Clause) and restricting an individual’s religious practices (Free Expression Clause).

BACKGROUND

On March 25, 2035, Google perfected Project Calico, which had a mandate to kill death and stop aging. It did so with pico-electric nanites injected into the subject’s blood stream. The nanites cured illness, stopped aging, and extended life indefinitely for anyone so treated. Death by natural causes ceased to exist for those who could afford it.

To ease the financial burden on nanite candidates, western governments stepped in with subsidies. That was a necessary step since the initial injection and annual follow-ups were beyond the means of most people.

Unfortunately, life extension did more harm than good. First, the number of global births began to exceed the number of deaths. With more mouths than food to go around, global food shortages became the norm. Second, the elderly clung to their jobs leaving younger people unemployed, and therefore, an added societal burden. Third, the cost of government subsidized life extension crushed economic growth in the developed nations. Fourth, the collection of retirement benefits far beyond what was once a normal lifespan wreaked havoc on corporations. Finally, there was an uptick in crime and other deviant behavior associated with the amortal demographic. Psychologists attributed it to an overweening sense of invincibility coupled with an inexplicable decline in impulse control.

Social philosophers and economists wrestled with the question of how long is long enough?  Politicians asked the same question. On May 25, 2050, both Houses of Congress passed the Mandatory Euthanasia Act which capped life spans at 150 years old. Regardless of a person’s overall physical and mental health, once a person had passed the chronological red line, they were ordered to report via the Selective Euthanasia Service to a Federal Termination Unit for painless and otherwise humane liquidation.

Many pundits believed that the impact of ageless living on the world’s religions, particularly those with pie-in the sky visions of an afterlife, would be terminal. To the contrary, religions of all dominations experienced explosive growth directly correlated with the enactment of the MEA.

The reason for such a radical sea change lay in the Constitution. Many religionists believed that the First Amendment protected their right to practice their religion in perpetuity on earth. The lower courts disagreed on the ground that the religious doctrines in question did not mandate earthly life in perpetuity. Instead, it stressed that all the doctrines in question characterized earthly life of secondary importance relative to the greater heavenly reality to follow.

To circumvent that obstacle, K.C. Braddock formed the Church of the Everlasting Earthly Flame. Its central tenet was that God promised eternal earthly life to any and all who sought it.

Harlan Nekros, age 149, joined the congregation that year fully expecting to receive First Amendment Protection of his religious freedom to remain alive indefinitely. 

On his 150th birthday, Nekros received his order to report within one year to a termination facility in fulfillment of his societal obligation. He subsequently obtained a temporary restraining order in Federal District Court to stay the process pending a hearing. 

At the hearing, Pepper’s lawyers argued that Nekros’s rights would be violated by the Court’s enforcement of the MEA. As a congregant of Everlasting Flame, Nekros was entitled to preserve his life by whatever means were available. To order his termination, the State would be committing a crime against his person and his constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion.

Nekros’ lawyers stressed that “the State’s law is just another example of a callous and godless government running roughshod over human life and the religious rights of believers. Drunk with power, the State argues unconvincingly that forced suicide is a curative to modern medical paternalism.”

For its part, the United States Attorney argued that, “the net effect of Project Calico’s so-called success is that federal, state and local governments have been handed the crushing economic burden of medical treatments and retirement benefits extended into perpetuity for a growing population of geriatrics. Climate change, and the concomitant scarcity of food and water, have made those burdens exponentially greater.”

“Such extreme hardships call for extreme measures if our republic is to hold together. As in war, some members of society must be sacrificed so that the greater whole may survive. It is disingenuous for opposing counsel to argue that the State lacks an adequate moral foundation for the law and is simply acting in arbitrary and capricious manner in derogation of the petitioner’s liberty and religious interests.”

The Federal Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that MEA violated the petitioner’s free exercise of religion. It ordered the suppression of the State’s termination order pending an appeal.

NEKROS v. U.S.

The United States Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to determine the constitutionality of the Federal Life-Time Limits set forth in the MEA statute. The major points of that opinion follow:       

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Nekros’ strongest line of attack lies in the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom. We reject that argument. The State does not deny appellant’s right to believe whatever doctrine he chooses. Indeed, the State’s motivation in enforcing the MEA is a secular one and does not make any religious practice unlawful. The State is not acting as the thought police, nor the guardian of any one religion. The appellant remains the master of his own mind and soul and is therefore free to pursue whatever religious truth he sees fit to follow.

ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE

If we were to grant exemptions to Eternal Flame congregants, we would be violating the Establishment Clause by giving preferences to those who believe they are entitled to an eternal earthly life at the expense of other religions that do not so believe.

DUE PROCESS

The due process clauses of the constitution act against the arbitrary denial of life, liberty or property outside the sanction of law. There is nothing arbitrary or unsanctioned about the MEA. It is based on the need to reduce domestic population in order to conserve financial and material resources in both the private and public sector. It was enacted with the unanimous consent of both Houses of Congress and ratified by the President. We find therefore that the MEA does not offend the due process clauses.

EQUAL PROTECTION

Nekros argued that irrespective of any due process considerations, the MEA violates the Equal Protection Clause which holds that ‘No state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ Nekros asserts that persons over the age of 150 years old are being singled out for disfavored treatment relative to the rest of the public. We find this challenge to be without merit. At first blush, senicide, or selective eradication based on age, would seem to offend the right to equal protection under the law. But since all citizens fall within the sweep of the statute, we can find no basis for a claim of differential treatment under the law.

RIGHT OF PRIVACY

Nekros also argues that penumbra of the constitution creates a fundamental right to privacy, and by implication a right of self-determination. To support that argument, Nekros has provided a laundry list of case law bearing on a woman’s right to abortion, assisted suicide for the terminally ill patients, and fulfillment of DNR orders in living wills. Nekros would have us extend that right of self-determination so that he may lead an ageless existence in perpetuity irrespective of the law of the land. We find such case law distinguishable from the one at hand because there was no countervailing state interest in regulating population control. In these difficult times, we must all make hard choices. As the District court noted, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or the few.  

DOCTOR FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTERS

We take judicial notice of the State’s statistical data regarding the well-documented criminality and malicious deviance of the ageless. To date, there have been more deaths from their wanton and reckless geriatric behavior than from all other domestic causes combined.  

That precipitous decline in personal and societal risk assessment, as reflected in those jarring statistics, stems from an unforeseen limitation of nanation. Although the nanation process may preserve cognitive and bodily function, it cannot preserve emotional intelligence. To the contrary, the effect of an extremely long and healthy life imbues the individual with a sense of invincibility, while simultaneously degrading impulse control. The medical community describes this effect as Toxic Centenarian Deviancy Syndrome. To date, there is neither a treatment nor a cure.

We hold therefore that Nekros’ constitutional challenges are without merit. We order that Nekros be remanded back to federal custody for termination within the next six months, pursuant to the original liquidation order.

JUSTICE WILBUR BAKER, DISSENTING

I am disgusted by the social arithmetic used by the majority. I do not believe that such an algorithm is good for society. Indeed, the notion that the State has the unfettered right to murder its citizens for no other reason than they have escaped death by old age is palpably absurd. Indeed, it reeks of both Hitler’s death camps where Jews were exterminated because they were characterized as morally flawed and Stalin’s pogroms against his own troops because they had been contaminated by exposure to western values at the front.

Not surprisingly, Hitler’s views on genocide — for what is the systematic extermination of an outcast group if not that — took their inspiration from our sterilization laws so popular in the 1920’s. Those laws aimed to eradicate the unfit and the degenerate: criminals, prostitutes, alcoholics, epileptics and the mentally ill. 

I find it disingenuous for the majority to assert that a person is free to believe whatever they like up until the moment the state lops off his or her head. It reminds one of the turkey’s fate on Thanksgiving Day following a few years of placid existence on the farm.

What the state, with the imprimatur of the courts has done, is criminalize long life but without the procedural and substantive protections afforded any accused criminal. It follows in the vein of other authoritarian regimes that have criminalized such things as reading, writing, and transporting books as well as composing and playing music. I must ask what comes next.

Given the State’s willingness to commit legally sanctioned murder, and its propensity to expand its reach, I should not be surprised if it concocts another law that violates both the spirit and letter of our sacred constitution. Thus, do we slouch toward tyranny and the genocides necessary to sustain it with a wink and a nod to the Founding Fathers.

I therefore respectfully dissent from the majority opinion.

~

Bio:

Carlton Herzog served as a flight dispatcher in the USAF. He later graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University. He also graduated from Rutgers Law School, where he served as the Rutgers Law Review Articles Editor. He currently works for the federal government.

Stairway to Heaven

by Carlton Herzog

EXCERPT FROM THE 2230 VATICAN CONFERENCE ON THE EXISTENCE OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE PRESENTED BY CARDINAL GIACOMO BONANOTA, CHIEF ASTRONOMER, VATICAN OBSERVATORY, ROME

From antiquity to the present, we have debated whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. In a seemingly unrelated vein, we have also wondered what happens to us when we die. Is death the end, or is it merely a jumping off point to a deeper, more nuanced and granular reality, of which we are only dimly aware? To be sure, I as a man of faith never saw the intimate connection between extraterrestrial intelligence and the soul. That, my friends, has changed.

We all remember the story of Giordano Bruno who championed the Principle of Plenitude. To wit, the cosmos is bursting with an abundance of intelligent life and correlatively, souls. And he believed that those souls were not confined to creatures such as we are or others like us but invested the very planets, stars, meteors and the universe itself. Sadly, we had a hand in his being burned at the stake for heresy, a stain that will never be fully wiped away. Today, I take a small step toward atonement by submitting for your approval that Bruno was correct on both points. I make that bold claim not as a matter of faith or as a regurgitation of official church doctrine. Rather it stands on the ground of irrefutable scientific evidence.

Until recently nobody knew for sure whether there was a soul or not, and if there were what happened to it once it left the body. A paranormal researcher, named Jake Cody, theorized that the physical body acts like a matrix or womb around which the soul forms and grows.  It’s composed of elementary particles that have a lot in common with neutrinos–very low mass and the ability to pass though ordinary matter undetected. When the body dies, the soulons decouple. Cody believed soulons to be the source of apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists.

He built a device–what he called a psy-scope–to detect the wandering souls. When Cody trained his scope at locations supposedly infected with ghosts and specters, he didn’t have any luck. One day it hit him that if souls were indeed massless, they would not be tethered by gravity. So, he aimed his scope skyward. But it wasn’t until he aligned the detectors along Earth’s magnetic field that he struck pay-dirt. Sure enough, he caught sight of souls moving in great looping arcs toward the poles and then breaking free into a vast migration.

But there was an unexpected twist: the number of souls exceeded the daily mortality rate by a factor of ten. From that finding, Cody postulated that a lot of animals we think don’t have souls–dogs, apes, whales, dolphins, octopi, even cows and chickens–do, albeit more primitive versions of our own. That got him to thinking his psyscope could be used to detect life outside our solar system by finding soul streams leaving exo-planets. In theory, he believed that he could re-trace a line of streaming souls back to their planetary source, thus pinpointing where to focus a search for life.  Cody also believed that just as we can identify spectral emissions in light as corresponding to certain elements, he could do the same with psychic spectra to identify intelligence.

Theory in hand, Cody approached the neutrino hunters on the Galileo array and asked if he could repurpose one of their detectors as a psy-scope to pursue his research. They agreed, and the data they’ve received confirms Cody’s theory.

Nobody likes to hear they have been demoted. In this case, Cody’s theory means that we were no better than animals or extraterrestrials when it comes to being admitted to an afterlife, an afterlife automatically bestowed by the laws of nature. And while Cody’s theory seems to rule out Heaven’s pearly gates, it raises many a question. For one, why are the souls drawn to the black hole at the center of our galaxy? At this distance, black hole gravity would have no more effect on them than it does on us. Clearly, some other force is at work, one that might be purposeful. And while a black hole would crush ordinary matter, it might serve as a conduit to an elsewhere or an else-when for massless particles, such as soulons.

The images show that our galactic black hole is nested inside a spherical halo of souls. Around its accretion disc there exists a coextensive rotating ring of souls–with its own internal velocities, bifurcations and currents–that plunges radially into the black hole.

Cody believes that the entire contraption forms an over-mind–a dense supermassive guiding intelligence. A galactic hive-mind, if you will.

The question then is whether in addition to the cosmos, there is a psymos, a psychic universe with a life and purpose of its own, such that our physical universe is nothing more than the caterpillar’s chrysalis, and in time, we and the physical universe we inhabit will pass away into something transcendent.

Cody wants to contact these over-minds. Although his empirical data is sound, I am skeptical of its utility beyond the realm of pure scientific understanding. Even if everything he contends is true, I doubt that the corporeal and the psi could have a common language.

Questions such as what role, if any, did the over-minds play in the formation of the universe? Do they know the fate of the universe, and are they in control of it? Do they remember their earthly existence, and if so in what detail and with what, if any, emotion?

I submit that the difference between the living and the dead is like that between a caterpillar and a butterfly. Same creature, but their approach to life and concomitant needs are radically different. I see a hand in the front row. Bishop Charles, my old friend from London, how might I elucidate these matters for your learned self?

“First, I want to thank you for an excellent presentation. My question speaks to the matter of what constitutes such a mind. If it be not driven by neurons and neurotransmitters, is bereft of grey and white matter, as well as all the other cranial components that house and drive human consciousness how then can you say these soulons have minds at all. Perhaps they are just the mindless remnants of consciousness shed by the brain the way a snake sheds its skin.”

I’m glad you asked that question. I’m sure you are familiar with Sir Robert Penrose’s work of some two centuries ago. He showed that consciousness was merely the surface condition, the foam if you will, on very deep waters that sounded in the quantum realm. Our physical reality, if I may repeat myself, is simply a womb for that energy to coalesce into something far more complicated and enduring than our tiny, fragile minds can imagine.  In that regard, I quote the great thinker J.S. Haldane who famously said, the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

More to your point, I am proposing, as indeed is Mr. Cody, that a soul possesses a different form of consciousness, one not tied to the needs and limitations of the body, one that can travel across vast galactic distances and see things we can only imagine, and draws power, purpose and structure from a hidden quantum reality we may never fully know. Cardinal Enright, you have a question?

“More like an observation. I would venture to say that a soul would remember every aspect of its life here on earth. That would be consistent with conservation of energy laws, since consciousness is at root an organized configuration of informational energies. But I don’t think a soul would miss its earthly life. Perhaps, because emotion would persist into the afterlife only in the vestigial sense. Or because the soul would know that death is merely a transitional phase toward something more enduring. And I suspect its sense of time would be much different.”

Thank you, Cardinal Enright. Thank you all for your kind attention. I’m about out of time, so let me wrap this presentation up.

Whether you concur with Cody and myself, or you hew to a more doctrinal view of the afterlife, I think we can all agree that we are all related to the infinite, even though we cannot with microscopic precision lay out the contours of that relationship, beyond a few particulars. I submit that is what it is to be human. How that came about, or why, is perplexing to be sure. But it gives us a needed humility and perspective in the fact of vast, cosmic grandeur as we trudge the road of unfathomable destiny. We are not the center of creation. Something else, some call it God, is—a something whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

~

Bio

Carlton Herzog served as a flight dispatcher in the USAF. He later graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University. He also graduated from Rutgers Law School, where he served as the Rutgers Law Review Articles Editor. He currently works for the federal government.

Alien Mating Habits: A Brief Overview

by Jim Lee

Author’s Introduction (Note to all Copyeditors: Color-Code this Section in Darkest Brown, for Highly Honorable, Accurate & Valuable Information):

While an unnatural peace momentarily reigns in our arm of the galaxy, The Divine Order of Things and Our Own Species’ aggressive, restlessly expansive nature make future conflicts inevitable. I won’t comment on whether such wars are desirable or not–all right-thinking beings are surely agreed regarding that!

But knowing all your enemies (potential and actual) in as thorough and wide-ranging a sense as possible provides major advantages. Also, I argue that scientific inquiry—gathering knowledge, increasing understanding of those strange beings we share the stars with—is a worthy goal unto itself.

Therefore, I present this necessarily brief overview of all the extant sentient species we’ve encountered in our centuries of space travel for your edification.

I. The Icklanders (Entry in Medium Blue, for Moderately Disgusting Content):

This telepathically-linked species never leaves their homeworld, lest they lose mental contact with the balance of the species and suffer fatal shock reactions. Nonetheless, they helped found the unnatural multispecies military agreement that presently inhibits our continued, Divinely Mandated Expansion.

They employ other species, from other Alliance worlds and occasionally elsewhere, for such tasks as interstellar diplomacy, trade and off-world military action. It must be conceded that their creative, literally single-minded condition has led to advanced and unique technologies. None among us should doubt they would fiercely defend their world upon the defeat of the mercenaries who operate their well-equipped space fleet. But that’s a matter for another essay.

Our concern today (and the true basis of our instinctive distaste toward them—or ‘it,’ since no Icklander has any individual identity) is the reproductive activity of these slug-like beings.

In Mating Season, Icklanders employ their pseudopods to climb their planetary equivalent of trees. Huddled together yet never quite touching, they unleash slimy, grotesque downpours of sperm and soft-shelled eggs (each has both female and male reproductive organs). For several local days, the surfaces of entire continents are coated with sticky reproductive muck, until hatchlings eat their way out of the seminal goo. The adults then slide down, resuming their regular activities without even a backward glance.

II. The Polygens (In Paler Blue, for Slightly Distasteful):

These suitably warlike methane-breathers come in five sexes. The lone female in each family unit bears live young and commands absolute leadership in all things. This blatantly sexist arrangement may offend some sensibilities, yet is considered natural by them.

Successful mating involves one individual from each of the five genders. Deviations occur, though severely punished when discovered—a laudable display of species-wide discipline. One interesting perversion involves having more than one of a given gender involved. However, engaging in sexual activity with less than the normal five is considered the most socially objectionable.

III. The tas’Lenka (In Red, for Mostly Honorable):

Weakened by a series of conflicts with the Polygens before our arrival in their space, these folk put up a valiant if doomed fight. Now enslaved by us for a number of Standard Years, they continue resisting in subtle ways—thereby underlining their courage, intelligence and stubborn honor.

Their mating behaviors are no more or less violent, ethical or comprehensible than our own. We respect them, even if we occasionally have to make an example of some of them—usually a few thousand at a time.

IV. The Prenn (In Yellow, for Somewhat Unpalatable):

Cold-world O2-breathers, their retractable foot-claws (think: natural ice skates) can serve for weapons-free close combat, when necessary. As in other things, they’re very loyal, stable and well-mannered reproductively—boring, in other words.

Unfortunately, they evidence disgustingly excessive levels of tolerance—going so far as to willingly share one small colony world with the most disgusting of all known sentient species (you know who I mean).

V. The Tama Ka’Mor (In Greenish-Yellow, for Slightly Unpalatable):

Another Cygnus Alliance founder, they show fighting spirit if provoked. Yet they sadly lack the drive to prove themselves in the eternal battle for survival and righteous dominance. They usually practice a form of serial monogamy not too much unlike our own—though lacking the rich “Relationship Death Ritual” symbolizing termination of a relationship among truly worthy lifeforms (that is to say: Us).

VI. The Maruts (In Very Pale Red, for Semi-Honorable):

This valiant, long-conquered species, like a certain lifeform whose tragically misguided and self-inflicted destiny is too painful to mention here, breathes fluorine. (And I boldly digress to ask: Isn’t it time that we FINALLY acknowledge to ourselves that ancient tragedy was NOT our fault? How were we to know the freakish creatures would commit species-wide Mass Suicide rather than accept rightful enslavement by us!?)

Disappointingly, the Maruts no longer give us much trouble, despite their fascinating ability to channel electrical impulses through their bodies. They did give us a good battle despite being centuries behind us, so we of course honored them by restricting our war-making tech and tactics to ones no more than a half-century beyond their own.

The result was a glorious, nostalgic struggle.

It’s too bad that their mating traditions are so free-form and chaotic as to defy easy characterization. This demonstrates the underlying lack of focus that (along with being technologically backward) doomed these courageous avians to their status as our most-senior slave race.

VII. The Khensu (In Pink, for Ambiguously Odd):

The last of Alliance’s first five members, they live in a chlorine-based ecology and are renowned as the greatest of all bio-engineers. They’re also peaceful to a bemusing fault, having never even had a word for warfare until encountering other sentients. Strange people, yes—yet their legendary commitment to their beliefs, no matter how evolutionarily inappropriate and opposed to Divine Law, command some degree of respect.

They also display no passion in picking their mates-for-life and reproduce in orderly five-year cycles. Pretty boring, overall.

VIII. The Vayuans (In Near-Purple, for Mostly Shameful):

Oxygen-breathing cowards, these avians mate the same way they spend most of the rest of their lives—in mid-air, gliding along the air currents between their homeworld’s many mountains. Yes, they were bright-eyed primitives when we met. We dealt with them accordingly, our soldiers equipped with but the simplest weapons. Yet in contrast to the Maruts, they surrendered without a fight.

So who gives a damn about their mating habits—or any other aspect of their so-called culture?

IX. The Lintonians (In Pure White, for Utterly Baffling):

What isn’t mysterious about these silicon-based, extraordinarily advanced interstellar merchants? How did they ever evolve? Or did some still-unknown super-intelligence genetically engineer them, as some suggest? They sell all manner of other information (not to mention the arcane hyperspace drives we and all other space-going species use). But even the most basic questions about them are unanswerable at any price.

So until we (or, perish the thought, some rival species!) can reverse engineer their h-drives and force an end to their monopoly on interstellar travel tech, details of the Lintonians’ culture of star-traveling, hollowed out world-ships will doubtless remain obscure.

X. The Humans (In Deepest Purple, for Absolute Maximum Shamefulness):

Finally (and certainly least), we’re forced to consider the most perverted sentients ever known or imagined. While these O2-breathers are approximately as warlike as we are, yet we can rest easily in knowing that is the only behavior we have in common.

They call us Narakans (in typically corrupted dual reference to one of the countless ‘evil’ demons of their ancient mythologies and to our prehensile trunks’ resemblance to a large quadruped mammal (the elephant) native to the ancestral homeworld they ruined in their ever-treacherous insanity). This term they dare apply to us as an ironic insult, in part because we stand quite a bit shorter than the typical human’s skinny, unarmored frame.

And while we, in our perhaps too stern yet always honor-bound view, shame ourselves for our unintended part in the extinction of our first spacegoing opponents in the Divine Contest for Dominance, these monstrous beings barely acknowledge the many lesser species they have destroyed. But the worst and most intolerable aspect of their behavior is the way they treat Each Other!

So I ask, if only rhetorically: What intelligent species makes war, even on itself?

Only one (as we all know) and in their essential depravity, humans place themselves beneath the notice of disciplined, dignified and honorable lifeforms such as ourselves!

~

Bio

Jim Lee comes from a Pennsylvania town better known for producing Olympic swim champ/early movie Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller, pioneer rock n roll DJ Alan Freed and millions tons of coal dust. He’s been a published writer since the 1980s. To date his work has appeared in a wide range of venues in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, South Africa and China. His recent sales include SF stories and non-fiction in issues of the magazine OUTPOSTS OF BEYOND and such anthologies as FANTASY FOR THE THRONE, TOTAL WAR and STRANGE STORIES Volume One. A member of his local library’s Board of Trustees, he has just volunteered to serve as that organization’s new Treasurer.