The members of the Survival Pod, bearing heavy packs of scavenged tools, weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies, as well as keeping weapons at the ready, climbed down the bluff leading to the beach. Mia clicked a signal light in the dusk: three clicks, stop, three more clicks. From the inlet by the beach, RG, in the boat, clicked the confirmation signal: two clicks, stop, two clicks.Highly intelligent, obsessive-compulsive, and controlling, Mia was the chief strategist and tactician for the group. She and RG frequently argued vehemently, but once a decision had been taken and it was time to take action, the pod willingly put themselves under Mia’s command.

 

As civilization seemed to be sliding downhill, Mia decided to turn their financial resources from securities and paper money into gold coins. Many people had decided to leave the island; others, including the pod, began to prepare it as a survival headquarters.
The Survival Pod had taken over the two adjoining meadows next to RG’s grandparents’ old five acres, and planted grains and vegetables as well as additional fruit trees and nut trees, and they were raising chickens, ducks, and goats. The pod had also become skillful hunters, collecting game such as squirrels, chipmunks,, rabbits, and deer from the woods at the back of their land.

They had arranged a self-defense pact with the few remaining neighbors to keep an eye on each other’s properties if one group of homesteaders traveled to the mainland for additional supplies.

Besides depending on armed and watchful neighbors, the pod also relied on traps and mines to protect their territory. Yoshi, skilled with the use of surreptitious weapons, had booby trapped the land around the homestead with pitfalls, snares, and mines. They had decided to make a trip to the mainland to see what supplies they could bring back to help see them through the uncertain future. They had brought both cash—in the form of gold coins—and weapons, unsure which they would need.

Circumstances had proven they needed both. First they had gone to a large pharmacy on the mainland and purchased a variety of medical supplies. Then they had headed toward a large sporting goods store to stock up on additional weapons, ammunition, and other survival gear. Unfortunately, as they were in the store, they discovered others approaching with similar goals and little willingness to wait patiently in line for the rapidly diminishing supply of vital items.

Following Mia’s quick-thinking directions, they fired some shots in the air, told everyone else in the store to get down on the floor, and left quickly. As they left town and headed into the woods, they observed several armed people tracking them purposefully. They opened fire on the pursuers. Several fell; several fled. One of the fallen was still alive.

Chad, their interrogation expert, quickly persuaded him to tell how many were in the party. “It looks as if there are three more alive,” he warned the others.

When they reached the bluff down to the beach where RG waited in the boat, they avoided using the trail, instead using their machetes to cut through brambles and berries. Two of their pursuers, thinking to head them off, raced down the path, falling victim to some of Yoshi’s artfully hidden traps.

When they reached the ship, they found RG eagerly awaiting them, with the engine already running and ready to go. Although wind was the main source of propulsion in these gasoline-scarce times, the boat was also equipped with a motor for those times when speed was of the essence.

As they quickly loaded the supplies on to the ship and prepared to leave, Mia called out, “Watch out!” The last of their pursuers had approached underwater and was now climbing over the side of the boat to attack them on deck. RG whirled, kicked, and chopped. Mia fired once; just to be sure the idiot pursuer was really dead; they then tossed the body overboard. They quickly sailed from the inlet where RG had concealed the boat. As soon as they were safely away from the shore, they turned off the engine and used sail to head toward the island.

Chad grumbled, “We’ll have to eat berries and nuts and packaged food from our emergency supplies until our first grain crop is ready to harvest and we can hunt and slaughter some wild animals from the woods.”

“We can do worse than nuts and berries,” replied RG, as they sailed quietly through the night.

 

 

 

 

By the time Random Granddaughter reached her early thirties, she and the other members of her pod had phone transceivers implanted in their brains. It wasn’t exactly telepathy, but it was a step on the way. Her mommies and other members of the older generation regarded this innovation with fear and disgust and insisted on using “telephones” and “cell phones,” making them an object of mirth and derision to the younger generation.
As RG had ceived the other pod members to tell them she was close by, they were watching for the arrival of her hovercraft. As usual, Mia, with her sharp eyes, spotted it first. Mia, Yoshi, and Chad all leaped aboard the craft and reclined on the bucket seats, buckling themselves in as RG peeled away toward the coast and then headed over the water toward her property on the island, inherited from her grandparents.
The four pod members exchanged their latest dreamsicles. They were four of the leading creators of the popular mass media of their day. Each pod member handed the others three dreamsicles: previews of their upcoming releases. Placed on a wrist before going to sleep, the dreamsicle would dissolve into the bloodstream, creating vivid dreams lasting through the night.

Each member specialized in characteristic dreams. Chad’s Dreamstage name was Touch&Pound. His dreams consisted of a variety of feelings of being touched, ranging from the most feathery caresses to the most savage pummeling. After sleeping with one of Chad’s dreamsicles, the dreamer woke aching and sore.

Yoshi’s Dreamstage name was Deeper Than Terror. He specialized in nightmares. During the night the dreamer’s experiences ranged from anxiety and unease to stark screaming fear. Usually a dreamer awoke drenched in sweat amidst tangled, soaking sheets after taking one of DTT’s dreamsicles.

Mia, possessor of an incredible IQ, was known as Differentiate/Integrate to her fans. Her dreamsicles took her fans through vivid excursions of pure mathematics from differential calculus through symbolic logic. As they awakened, her fans often said, “It all made sense to me during the dream, but now I can’t remember a thing.”

RG was known by the dreamstage name, FallingFree. When she was a toddler, her grandfather had noticed how much she loved being held upside down as well as spinning around on a merry-go-round and joked that she had evolved to be an astronaut and live in space. RG, had in fact, as an adult, traveled to a space station and experienced weightlessness.

Her dreams evoked flying and falling. After throwing up in their sleep, RG’s fans learned not to eat very much before they went to sleep with one of her vivid dreamsicles.

RG had inherited her grandparents’ five acres on an island. Picking and eating berries in her grandparents’ garden had been a primal experience for her. Although RG and her companions were too much citizens of the world to settle permanently in one location, they regarded RG’s island land as their summer home. In her education, RG had pursued not only art—dreamsicle composition (her Mommy had been a violinist), but also was a scientist—expert in expert in genetic engineering (Mama had been a biologist and statistician).

Her grandparents would have been impressed to see how she had expanded their garden, focusing primarily on berries, but as devout organic gardeners, they would have been horrified to see how RG had used her genetic engineering skills to create new varieties of berries, many of which were psychotropic and produced strange and bizarre dreams. RG had become rich twice over after she created her famous Random Berries, which not only emerged in a variety of spectacular colors (reminiscent of the water colors she had played with as a child), and flavors, but also produced a variety of bizarre and unpredictable visions after one consumed them.

Three Grains of Sand

July 28, 2008

When I taught high school, for a while I participated in a half-day alternative school called “Alternative Futures.” Our goal was to prepare young people for a rapidly evolving future.

When I was young, I read a lot of science fiction. As someone with a small talent at writing (and not much else), I dreamed of being a science fiction writer. I made a few stabs; it was obvious to me that my talents do not lie in the direction of writing fiction.

As a young person, science fiction was mostly a form of escapism for me, though I did think about what it said. As an old person, the science fiction I read about when I was young is now coming true.

When I wrote an earlier scrap of blog science fiction, Spectrum wrote:

What about RG? What about her future? I don’t like this dream.

Like three grains of sand in an oyster, Spectrum’s three sentences stimulated me to write three—not pearls—three alternative futures for RG.

They will follow this week.

Inmates in Charge

December 14, 2007

On David Rochester’s blog, the discussion has focused on his mental health. David explains how crazy he is; explains how his therapist is trying to help and maybe cure him; explains how he is (so far at least) incurable; his readers (for the most part, an intelligent, caring, supportive group of people, except for the two stupid, clever, and wicked people who are trying to harm David) make helpful, intelligent, supportive suggestions.As one of the two bad people among his readers, I make sarcastic, unhelpful comments.

Cheles (one of the helpful people) wrote, in part, on a comment on David’s blog:

I vaguely remember walking in on a radio program a few months ago. The speaker spoke about his beliefs that the planet we currently live on, is a “Prison Planet.” His take on this was that our souls had chosen to be here to work out a past karmic “sentencing.” Apparently, something bad happened and we were given a choice for our punishment: to be sent here to do pennance or follow evil and be doomed forever…

The entire post and the rest of Chele’s comment.

This all ties in with something I was going to write about anyway. As I was growing up, I often wondered whether or not I was a sane person. I have had various emotional problems over my lifetime. At a fairly early age I encountered the distinction between neurosis and psychosis. My childish interpretation was that a neurotic person is really irritating and a psychotic person is really dangerous. Later I amended that a bit to argue that a neurotic person is someone who never really “grew up.” One problem with that definition is that I am not sure that anyone knows what a “really grown up” person would look like or how he or she would behave. (It may be that there are no grown-up human beings.)

Another thought I had was that maybe our entire species is insane.

When I was a child, I read a lot of science fiction. One of my favorite science fiction writers was the British writer Eric Frank Russell. Although British, he mostly wrote for the American market and his writing conveyed what seemed to me as a lively American diction. Although there was a certain amount of melodramatic “space opera” in his writing, he also had a sarcastic sense of humor, a disrespect for bureaucracy and hierarchy, and and a humanistic concern for sentient beings (who might be portrayed as “humans” or might be portrayed as “aliens”) that verged on the sentimental. As an impressionable child and immature teenager, I liked Russell’s writing a a lot.

A few years ago I re-read some of his writing, and also read some works I had missed when I was young. Sometimes when we re-read a writer we liked as a child again as an adult, the author does not hold up that well. This is particularly true with science fiction, a genre that does not usually “age” that well, and Russell’s sarcasm does not always hold up that well, either when re-read after a few decades have passed. I’m not sure I would encourage anyone to search out and read much of his work. However, one of his novels, Dreadful Sanctuary, does have a “high concept” that might be worth some contemporary author taking and redrafting in contemporary idiom and perspective.

Some of the basic story line of Dreadful Sanctuary:

Hold on to your hats. The four inner planets have long been inhabited by human beings, and each planet has produced a different subspecies or “race”. Black people come from Mercury, brown people are from Venus, yellow people are the only native humans from Earth itself and white people are from Mars. Sounds like one of those simplistic relationship manuals, eh? Once the stunning audacity of this concept sinks in…. that different ethnic groups had their skin tones determined by how close they were to the Sun (?!)… things get steadily even more bizarre.

The reason our little planet has so many specimens of the different human varieties is that, a hundred thousand years ago, the Martians developed a machine which can determine whether or not someone is insane. They (the Martians, the white people, remember) deported all their lunatics to the Earth to get rid of them as a humane solution. Sheesh, we are the Botany Bay of the Solar System! Kind of explains all the war and crime and perversions and pop music, doesn`t it?

All the descendants of the Martians who have been tested and found sane by that psychotron gizmo have formed a worldwide society with cells in every major city. Forget the Si-Fan or the Illuminati or even HYDRA, the real hidden power behind governments is the insidious Norman Club. (“Norman” for “normal man”…do you think Russell was familiar with the Great Shaver Mystery with its teros and deros?) Complicating things still more is that those who know of their real ancestry back on Mercury or Venus have different agendas than those descended from Martians. It`s quite a tangle, with three different ET clans plotting and scheming behind the scenes.

Although Russell was not a racist, the stuff about skin colors was silly and unnecessary (and not really that good a contribution to his satirical purposes). I’m not going to write the book, but I think a modern retelling of a novel based on the idea that our entire species is insane could be an interesting project.

One possible route to go would be to base it on the idea that one person alone among all humans is sane, but thinks he is crazy because he is so out of step with all the crazy people.