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Notes on the Town Of Lost Hallow Pt. 4: The Carnival

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Miss Hannah runs the cabaret and acts as the MC. Hannah comes from a theatrical family. Her father and mother used to be on the vaudeville circuit for some years before some troubles convinced them to take their two girls, Hannah and her paternal twin sister Shira, and settle down in the isolated town of Lost Hallow. Apparently a few other members of their troupe decided the same thing as they all moved to Lost Hallow together and on occasion would still all meet and gather in the basement of Hannah’s parents. During these meetings Hannah and her sister would be told to stay upstairs.

 

……..

 

The Carnival.

 

Sometimes, far out on the horizon of the desert one can see a travelling carnival moving across the landscape. It is a caravan with banner and flags and long carriages you can just make out if you try. Rumors abound regarding the caravan, but these rumors are only told in whispers. If you want to hear the entire saloon go quiet in a just a few seconds, bring up the carnival.

 

Most folks say the carnival has never actually come to Lost Hallow, and that’s how it should be kept. Some other folks say that while that’s technically true, the carnival did come to the town that stood on this spot before Lost Hallow. You can ask what that town was and what exactly happened to it, but you’ll find the conversation ended by the time you could spit out the question.

 

A few folks say the Carnival is attracted to Lost Hallow like a lustful man to a pretty, enticing girl he spies sitting all alone in the park. It cannot forget the town, and though it may move on, it will always come back. Most everyone agrees it cannot ever be invited and it cannot ever be allowed to arrive.

If you’re having this conversation at this point, you are not in the saloon. You’re likely at a fire on the outskirts of the town, or one of the underground leisure rooms in bewteen the gambling basement and the opium basement, a stretch of underground rooms offering certain vice activities which are owned and run by Han-Mi. One would assume you could get to this underground stretch of illicit nightlife through the saloon, but you cannot. Han-Mi can, there is a secret entrance, but it is secret and not open to the public. Instead there are two entrances in the rear stormceller of two of the storefronts. This is where you can engage in narcotics, gambling and to a degree prositution. It is assumed that Han-Mi runs a prostitution ring in addition to the gamlbing and opium den, but you should try telling this to her face. She will give you a piece of her mind on this one, but to sum it up for you, she does not in any way shape or form condone or support prostitution. All girls who choose of their own volition to hang out in the vice cellars and offer their sexual services for money are independent operators and not associated with Han-Mi.

 

Probably the reason that Han-Mi is assumed to be runnig them, other than the fact that they’re operating in her basements, is that every now and then some sneering knife man comes along and decides that pimping is a pretty good career choice. Han-Mi, whose knife skills are legendary and according to Dawson Calico who has seen them first hand, deservedly so, has been known to gut pimps. And by gut, i mean if you’ve ever seen someone’s stomach sliced from side to side so their guts spill out, you already know what the verb “to gut” means. It ain’t pretty. Lost Hallow does not have pimps and if it does, it is for a very short time.

 

Han-Mi states she is a dedicated libertarian, and if a girl has an uncoerced desire to pick up a few bucks by offering a service to a willing, uncoerced client, than she is free to do so and it is none of Han-Mi’s business. She will not stop it, she will not condone it, but she will gut herself any self styled pimps who pop up to leech off of it. But hang on you say, what about them girls needing protection from a rowdy client?  Oh hell son,  if you think getting gutted is bad, just try getting violent with a girl down in any of Han-Mi’s places of business. Just try it. I’d even say try it and then come back here and tell me how it went, only i know damn well you ain’t coming back here.

 

Anyway, getting back to business, all i’m saying is that there are certain taboo topics where the only place you might get a slight bit more conversation about, is down in the vice cellar. And even then, no one likes to talk about the carnival. But you might hear something along the lines of it needing to be fed in order to be kept away.

 

There is a line of thought that states that you should pay attention when the carnival starts getting seen on the horizon.  Someone will always go. Someone might go missing, someone might decide to leave by their own decision, but someone ALways goes. The carnival gets fed and it leaves for a time. They say most of time someone willingly runs off to join it. Someone whose will is on the weaker side, or who is… susceptible to the siren song it silently sings which maybe only they can hear. Maybe there’s been a time or two where no one has gone willingly and the carnival starts circling ever closer to the town and it’s been necessary to… send someone less willing. A little sacrifice for the common good.  Maybe. If this has indeed happened it’s certainly very rare and who knows if the mayor knows about this or not, although it’s kind of hard to see how she’s wouldn’t be in on it. But hey, tough decisions need to be made sometimes for the common interest.

There are however other lines of thought.

Feena O-Kelly, the town tarot reader is not a frequent visitor to the vice cellar. She certainly does not like to gamble. But she loves her some of the wacky tobacky and on occasion is known to indulge in stronger stuff. Usually she gets said stronger stuff from Sophia Suarez’s herbal talents, but every now and again she comes down to the opium den, claiming there are certain specific visionary insights that are best achieved with opium.

 

When Feena is high as a kite, before she’s had enough opium to render her incapacitated, she is a gawdamn hoot, and a mind blowing one at that.  Let her talk long enough and i guarantee you she will say something that will make your brain explode with one of them “Holy fuck” moments. Anyway, she has an interesting thought or two about the carnival.

 

She says the carnival does have a lustful tie with Lost Hallow, but that it runs both ways. The carnival not only comes sniffing around of its own accord, it gets called, however unwittingly by unsuspecting residents.  Sometimes the one who called it will run off to it, sometimes not, and sometimes it is far, far more than a single resident sending out a beacon attracting it. She tells you to think about whether carnival sightings went up or down after Miss Hannah’s Cabaret got started. You in reply will note that carnival sightings went down. She will in turn will give you that subtle little “uh huh” look. If pressed, you might wring out of her that there was a big series of discussions between her, Miss Hannah, Sophia Suarez and the librarian (what IS her name. I swear it’s on the tip of my tongue…) which culminated in the agreement that Miss Hannah running a cabaret in Han-Mi’s saloon was in fact a very, very good idea.

Last thing Feena’ll tell you is  that Hannah herself would probably have some extra thoughts on it on account of what happened to Shira… but Hannah isn’t likely to say much outside the cabaret itself, so make sure to get out and check it out next Saturday night.

 

After that…. Well damn child, shouldn’t you be getting to bed? How long have you been down here? You found out what you wanted. You don’t need no opium, you got stuff to do tomorrow and for heaven’s sake you do not need to throw good money away at the gambling table. And don’t even think about a prostitute. I didn’t bring you down here to get all sleazy and i’m sure you can do just fine on your own for free. You just get goin’ now, and i’ll see you next time.

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Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Notes on the Town Of Lost Hallow Pt. 3: The Schoolteacher

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  • There is a single schoolhouse and the teacher is universally beloved by the townsfolk. Her name is Miss Glenda Nelson. She is young, dainty, pretty, soft spoken, wonderful with the children and bets around the saloon run towards her still being a virgin. She lives with her mother who doesn’t let her out at night so she has little social opportunity as opposed to her older sister who moved out some time ago and has a reputation as a bit of a wild girl.According to saloon gossip, pretty much no one has ever bedded or claimed to bed Glenda Nelson except Jeb Jiggerson, who has lied about sleeping with so many women most everyone at the saloon just assumes he’s a virgin too. Miss Nelson is a looker for sure and she would have more than her fair share of suitors if it wasn’t for her mother, who is as ugly as Glenda is pretty and frankly, downright intimidating and scary. No man has ever made it past her front door into the house.Her older sister,  Gretchen, is a more worn version of Glenda and has definitely been around the bush a bit, although it’s been some years since anyone can remember partying down with her. She was wildfire some years ago but seems to have hung up her dancing boots except for the occasional weekend bender at the saloon. And even during the benders she don’t put out no more.

    Carlos Valencia knows a secret however that saloon gossip would find most interesting. However Carlos is a very intelligent man. Intelligent in ways most folks aren’t. He knows why to keep his mouth shut, when to keep his mouth shut, and most importantly how to keep his mouth shut, so it’s unlikely another one is going to find out about some of the things he knows. For instance, he knows that Miss Nelson’s mother is the witch everyone thinks lives on the mountain and who does in fact have a cabin up there for solitude and performing the kind of borderline type arcane spellcraft one might want some privacy for.

    He knows this because his own mama was a witch and a member of the same coven that Miss Nelson’s mama Viola was part of. Being the son of a witch and hanging around your mama’s coven as a boy is a great way to learn the enormously helpful art of keeping your mouth shut. Carlos’ mama isn’t around anymore, nor is most of the coven, although he knows Viola is keeping a stern watch for the day they make it back and once again knock at the door of this reality at which point she’ll let them in, close that door, and gratefully give up the task of guarding that rift.

    There are a few interesting things Carlos does not know, which would blow his mind if he were to. Such as: Viola never had any daughters. Glenda Nelson is not Viola’s daughter. She IS Viola. She is Gretchen too. All three are the same person caught in a recursive age loop. She is young, she is old, she is middle aged… and she uses very powerful magik to keep some sort of control over the chaotic looping of her lifecycle.

    As to her erotic life, while it is true she does not engage in sexual activity when she is Miss Nelson, and frankly couldn’t find any takers when she is Viola, she has a hearty sexual appetite that she indulges in as Gretchen. The reason that no one at the saloon has bedded her in years is because her taste has grown quite refined over the years and honestly, men don’t just cut it no more.

    She likes to have sex with gods.

    Now, finding an all out god is usually not so easy for mortals on this here plain, even though throughout the continent, most territories do in fact contain a set of twin gods who preside over the territory, or at least think they do. And there’s a bunch of different type spirits running around below them, and that’s just in our dimension, outside of that you can  find all manner of weirdness. If bangin’ spiritual entities is your thing, you got plenty of choice, assuming you know how to access and seduce them.

    Well i can’t speak to Gretchen’s seducing skills, although according to Dawson Calico they are airtight, but seeing as how she guards a gateway between dimensions, i.e. that old well that’s up there on her mountain property, she definitely has access to some funky places where some funky things live. So Glenda/Gretchen/Viola has her social life as far as she wants it, and while it’s probably best most of Lost Hallow doesn’t know much about it, she is a wonderful and beloved teacher, adored by her students. In fact the only class who ever misbehaved on her got Viola substituting for a few days. They say most of that class spent those school days in cages as the class frogs, hamsters and goldfish and afterwards it has been a long tradition to not get out of line in dear Miss Nelson’s classroom.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Notes on the Town Of Lost Hallow Pt. 2

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  •    The resident of the Town of Lost Hallow who has spent the most time in the “psych ward”, that is, Coraline Svendsen’s barn, is the town Banker, Shray Mati. He has an unusual grasp on reality. He believes all reality is an illusion, a simple enough premise, which is materialized by microscopic chemikal lifeforms who manifest as money. The flow of economics is what gives them the energy to exist and also to power the illusion, that is to say reality as we know it, which they beam around them. The illusion serves one primary purpose which is to move money thus feeding the chemikal lifeforms and allowing our temporary reality to exist. To this end he is but a simple servant of these great creatures, and perhaps owing to this rather strange theology, he is an excellent Banker, since he believes his very life depends upon healthy, balanced economic commerce. No one would think of replacing him as town Banker or of allowing him to be replaced, but on occasion the pressure, the horrible knowledge and the subtle messages encoded into reality that the little money creatures leave for him gets to be too much and he has a breakdown. Coraline keeps his stall at the barn always free and tidy for him, and takes care of him kindly and compassionately for however many days or weeks it takes him to recover this time around.

  • There is, technically, a Church Of Elysianism, which consists of three people who meet in Gable Carson’s tool shed on Thursday nights. They have a whole range of plans of where to take their organization, their Lodge if you will, should it manage to expand. They practice secret handshakes, have worked out a 23 level system of degrees and initiations, and otherwise have pages and pages written out in great detail. Their belief centers around the idea that the world is a spiritual asylum, and there is a larger, grander world beyond it which you can only reach if you achieve Spiritual Sanity before you die. Gable Carson is originally from a city some distance away called New Albion. However, any form of Voodoo is strictly prohibited.
  • There is a coyote spirit who roams the area about the Town and who predates the town by a long, long time. The spirit tends to physically manifest randomly, several times  during the summer months and does this by causing a townsperson to change into the coyote in a similar manner as to a werewolf. The catch is it is a different townsperson every time, and there is little warning or choice. You might be walking down the dirt street on 7PM on a lovely summer evening and the next thing you know you are a coyote until dawn the next day. It is thus a popular excuse young people use to blow off work the day after a particularly ribald party. (“Yeah, i know i didn’t come in yesterday, sorry about that but i was possessed by the coyote. You know how it is. Nothing i could do…”) The downside to this excuse, which does have to be taken seriously since it is a real occurrence,  is that after large parties, several youths will all use it to excuse the same day, thus everyone negating each other.
  • The Town of Lost Hallow is a frontier town, and since it’s not city sized, there tends to be one person who does each particular job. There is one banker,  one blacksmith, one butcher, etc. There is thus one tailor. He is a lonely man who lives alone in a small room above his little storefront shop. He is a refugee of a far off city called Victoria, which was conquered by Faeries. While most residents of Victoria simply disappeared when the human city blinked out and the faerie city blinked in in its place, the Tailor and his family were just outside the city and watched it happen. The madness that transpired just following this event as faeries ran wild with triumph and wild magic drove his sister mad, but he took her, her husband, his wife and their 2 children with him and they all fled as far as they could get.The journey was long, arduous, and terrible. His sister killed herself and her husband during the journey, but her mad soul didn’t find peace, it stuck around to plague the tailor’s family for 3 weeks straight. Afterwards it never really left altogether and reappears occasionally.The trek across the desert though was the real killer. The tailor’s wife and 2 children died along the way, and the tailor was found by some homesteaders crawling his way through the desert towards Lost Hallow, half dead. He has since recovered and worked hard to stake out a decent enough business for himself. He is good at his work and liked well enough by his neighbors although he has a sadness about him that shows even in his smile. His mad sister shows up every spring to plague him from spring solstice to summer solstice. She beckons him to come join her and sometimes he wonders how long it will be until he takes his needles, stabs himself in the neck and lets his ghost fly free to join her.
  • There are a number of interesting tales involving the wolves and how they came to be integrated into the town, the most poignant of which involves the Sheriff. However, i am not at liberty to disclose this story, much as i’d love to, since it is part of Miss Hannah’s Cabaret, and she has made clear anyone telling the stories told in her cabaret will be met with most dire consequences. Now, i’ve been whipped a few times by Miss Hannah and had a grand ol’ time doing it, but you do not want to be on the receiving end of that whip of hers when she’s not in playful mood, so i am keeping my mouth firmly shut and reminding you that performances are every Saturday night, and get there early cause seats fill up and the waitress gets real backed up with drink orders.
  • In a town such as Lost Hallow, where there are folks who turn into wolves, coyotes and even birds (we’ll get to that some other time) you can imagine one tricky profession to be is the town butcher.Well, this might have once been so, but the situation is currently quite amendable what with the butcher being a ghoul.Now, a ghoul typically denotes someone who has returned from the dead, which is of course a ludicrous suggestion. And even though Gable Carson sometimes drunkenly declares down at the saloon that this is exactly what happened in that city he comes from, no one is fool enough to believe his drunken ramblings. I mean could you imagine? Even if it were possible, that would be one guaranteed ticket to sending the whole place to hell in a handbasket.

    Of course you cannot bring back the dead and that’s not what happened with the butcher here. It’s actually a hair more complicated.

    The butcher was Bobby Diaz, brother of the Mayor, Carmen. Most folks round here know a bit of his checkered past, but all you need to know right now is that damn fool or not, he was a hell of a gunslinger. Well one day he was drinking his face off in town when who should be right there drinking their face off next to him, other than Salle Awn Mbutu, herself one of the most notorious gunslingers round these parts, although not actually from Lost Hallow. Anyways, she was passing by, came to town, was drinking up a storm and of course within a matter of time the place was not big enough to hold them two egos.

    So drunker ‘n that worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle, off they go into the street to have themselves a duel. To their credit, they really, really were great shots, because even though they couldn’t walk a straight line, they managed to shoot each other right on target.

    As they lay there dying, folks were running around trying to get help and of course someone went and got the mayor. The mayor wanted to save her brother of course, but Doc Svendsen was out delivering a baby at the Razor’s Edge Ranch. Sophia Suarez, the herbalist, had a bed above her herbal shop she slept in sometimes and fortunately she was there. So they brought Bobby to her and she tried a whole heap of tricks to help him and that Salle woman. After a spell, she told those standing around that she simply could not keep both of them from slipping into death and that honestly, her brother’s best chance was to get a witch.

    Now there is a witch who lives on the mountain behind town, but everyone is poop your drawers scared  of her and absolutely no one wanted to go there and seek her out. Not to mention it would take an enormous amount of time that Bobby  didn’t have. (Or Salle for that matter, but she wasn’t quite at the top of the priority line). So someone ran and got Feena O’Kelly, the town tarot reader, who arrived, assessed the situation and promptly asked what the hell anybody thought a gawdamn tarot card reader could do to help.

    The next suggestion was to get the Queen of Crime here in Lost Hallow, Han-Mi, who it is rumored knows a bunch of ancient and arcane oriental black magic. Now Han-Mi and the law don’t see eye to eye all the time, but in she came, and when she heard the bit about how she’s supposed to know said ancient and arcane oriental black magic proceeded to call Dawson Calico a half brained racist numbnut. She did however proceed to outline what might the best plan Bobby was likely to have if we were indeed down to requiring occultish type aid.

    Thus did Han-Mi bring everybody to the library in the middle of the night. The librarian is always there and while not particularly pleased to see so many visitors after hours, was courteous enough to let them in, dragging the bodies of Bobby and Salle. They carried them down to the basement where the librarian fetched a few books that were then turned over to Feena and Sophia, who despite having made clear they were utterly unqualified for this type of thing, proceeded to track down a spell and try to perform it.

    The issue was that Bobby did not have enough life force to keep him going. However, they decided that although Salle was a lovely girl and truth be told they preferred her company to that of Bobby, Bobby was after all a local and the mayor’s blood to boot, so they would use Salle’s remaining life force to kick start Bobby’s.

    Dawson Calico, who was there for the whole thing from the saloon to the library, assured me that the spell, although taking a real long time to cast, was really, really impressive once it got going. He says it got whistles of awe from just about everyone, ‘cept the mayor of course, and Han-Mi who is just not the “whistle of awe” kind. When it was all said and done, the spell did have an effect, just not quite the one they were going for.

    Bobby was kicked back to life and Salle croacked deader ‘n a sack of roadkill that’s been ground up into a doorknob and thrown in a casket and buried for a week, but… but they had indeed given Salle’s life essence to Bobby. Hell, they actually put Salle into Bobby.

    So best anybody figures is Bobby got put into Salle’s now thoroughly dead body, so she/he was buried with all proper props and Bobby, who now is actually Salle in Bobby’s body, stuck around and became the town butcher. Salle never really got the hang  of working Bobby’s body completely, or she’s just stuck in there a little too loosely, cause Bobby just doesn’t move about quite right and talks a bit funny too, but Salle as Bobby is a way more enjoyable drinking partner than ol’ Bobby ever was so all’s well that ends well i guess.

 

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Notes on the Town Of Lost Hallow Pt. 1

 

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Lost Hallow is in a position where the desert meets the forest. Desert runs for miles and miles, endlessly in front of the small town, but behind it runs a mountain range where dense forest grows and wild things run free and hunt in the dark nights. Strange noises come from the mountains and more than one resident has claimed they heard a call in the night which they could only resist for so long. Those who hear the call all eventually go, some after a week, some after 6 months, but one day, sure enough, off they go under the stars, into the mountain forest. It would be wrong to say they are never heard from again as some are in fact spied by a resident gone camping who can only describe the person as having gone native, reclaimed by mother nature.

 

The desert side is where the sun rises and the skies go on forever into the distant. There are a few ranches here and one small artist collective who takes cactus buttons and tries to paint the sky they see afterwards, to varying effect. The desert is calming to the soul, the peaceful side of town, but deadlier even than the forest. A person can survive in the forest. Wander off too far into the dessert past where you can see back to the town and they say
you will never find your way back again. And the desert offers no hope of survival. Plus you don’t want to accidentally stumble on the settlement of giant, ill tempered, sentient scorpions because the truce doesn’t count if you wander into their territory.

Still, as a frontier town, Lost Hallow has all the resources it needs to run itself. It has wood, plants and water, mud, clay, sun and rain. And for a place so isolated and difficult to come by, it has a surprisingly large assortment of characters who wander in from all sort of places and all walks of life.

It is not a particularly large place. There is of course a main street and a few side streets running parallel and perpendicular. there is an open air market to the east of main street and the nightlife street to the west where the Saloon is. The Saloon is a popular place on the weekends. It is not a rickety, wooden thing. The inside is covered in red and violet satin with candles everywhere. It is one of the few businesses that allows wolves inside, although they are expected to mind their manners and for the most part do.

It is no secret about the presence of a werewolf compound at the foot of the mountain, just outside the town. it contains all manner of lycanthrope, running the gammit from those who are human who turn into a wolf every full moon, those who turn into a wolf nightly, and those who only turn human every crescent moon. They can get loud on full moon nights but otherwise are very good neighbors and are roam freely in the town with no ill will from the non furry residents.

Other notable points of interest are:

– the town library is rather small above ground, but is said to run for quite a ways below. There are all sorts of books of interest the librarian can pull for you, and some say below ground eventually the books give way to stacks of other things that give information. The librarian never speaks and is in some ways the most feared person in town although she is nothing but quiet, well mannered and helpful.

It’s the way she looks at someone who is acting rude, rudeness being a trait she will not abide, and the access she has to forms of forbidden knowledge you don’t even want to guess at. If she decides your quest for knowledge is worthy and what you seek cannot be found above ground, she will take you down into the stacks. But DO NOT stray from her. If you are lost down there it could be years before you are seen again. Just ask Old Man Gaynor. He was in his 20s when he went running off down below. he was only gone 2 years above ground time, but he came back over 30 years older, and definitely not all there. He can be relatively lucid, particularly in the mornings, but once he starts rambling it’s best if you stop listening. Those who try to understand what he’s saying end up going off the rails of sanity themselves, although usually for only a short time. Still, Carlos Valencia once tried to follow Old Man Gaynor’s ramblings while he was well liquored up one Sunday night, and ended up in the psych ward for 3 weeks. It should be noted that the psych ward is actually a refurbished barn out in back of Doc Svendsen’s property that his wife tends to, where the horse stalls have been fitted with plenty of hay in place of rubber rooms.

– The Preacher is a mythshifter. He changes appearance mildly, but more so he changes belief system. This is not superficial, when he changes into a Mormon or a 7th Day Adventist ( or Elysianism) the theological knowledge that comes to him is deep, encyclopediatic and intense. Same for African Shamanism, Jainism, Hinduism, you name it. There might be some places where this might negatively affect Sunday service attendance, but in Lost
Hallow, Sunday service attendence is through the roof. Some of course come out of pure curiosity to see what kind of crazy dogman they’re going to get an earful of that week, and some honestly find it to be spiritually inspiring.

The Preacher was the son of a rambling tent revivalist, who was known for his snake work. He often bragged there was no snake in existence he could no subjugate, and his reputation suggested this was certainly true. He came to town seeking Sophia Suarez, the town herbalist. If it grows, Sophia can someone how get it or grow it, and she supplies Doc Svendsen with most of his medicines, none of which are in pill form. Sophia’s peyote is world famous. This Tent revivalist caught wind from multiple sources of the presence of a great multi- dimensional Snake that exists within the peyote landscape, and having bested the serpent of Satan already, wished to tame this new challenge. Thus he came to
purchase and consume Sophia’s famous peyote buttons, which he did. He tripped
his balls off and sure enough, met and battled the Great Snake.

After a week had passed and he still hadn’t come down, his son, now our current Preacher, decided he neede to go in there and rescue his fool old man. Sophia flat out refused to sell the boy peyote buttons and it took the boy another week before he convinced Feena O’Kelly, the town tarot reader, so purchase some for him. Feena wasn’t too keen on the idea, but she consulted her cards and saw that sure enough, the father was indeed locked in a heated and endless battle with the serpent and that the serpent being engaged like this for too long a time would cause terrible consequences on both the psychic and eventually the material realms. So she bought the boy the buttons and went in
with him to see that he came to no harm.

They found his father locked in a fierce battle with the Snake. The story of the negotiation session isn’t worth getting into here, but the long and short of it is: the father eventally married the Snake and stayed in the spirit realm. The boy went back, but as part of taking the Snake as his step mother, he took on the mythshifting ability which would define his long and well received preaching career. Back in the material world he was adopted by Feena O’Kelly who looked after, finished raising him and who he loves like a mother.

– The town Firestarter is a Hasidic Monk named Yitsak Isaacs. He practices a unique form of Kabbalic Tai Chi which can produce fire and otehr forms of light, including laser and subtle luminscence. He lives next to the river, and contributes to the town a number of ways, the most banal and obvious being he lights the nightly gas lamp that line the town center. He does this by doing a slow, graceful, swirling dance down the center main street every evening, the lamps lighting themselves as he passes. Many residents enjoy sitting and watching this nightly ritual.

More importantly, Yitsak was responsible for stopping the awful scorpion raids that had been the terror of the town prior to his arrival years ago. Deep in the desert is a hive of giant scorpions who would raid the town from time to time. These skirmishes these raids resulted in were brutal. Yitsak for some reason had the ability to communicate with these creatures and managed to work out a truce, although it was a long, difficult process. The scorpions were not keen on a truce, still aren’t all that thrilled with it to this day, and some nights in a saloon you can hear some talk to the effect that it’s only a matter of time til the truce breaks down.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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A Slenderman Musical Is Out Now!

A Slenderman Musical is officially out now! A weird, creepy and oddly touching song and story cycle for your ears! Listen! Buy! Keep me alive to write more bizarre and far fetched things!

A Slenderman Musical by Paul Shapera

Click the picture! Click here!
2 hours of rock musically goodness!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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7 Essential Lost Worlds of the Victorian/Pulp Eras

Yeah, see a theme going here? Hey, i’m on a kick and i genuinely love exploring literary and creative mythos.

Before we get started i just want to quickly state that the demo for the 1st Act of the Dieselpunk Opera is basically done. I can’t work on it anymore. It would be best if i put it down for awhile and moved on. I’m just awaiting some basic tracks i asked a guitarist friend of mine to lay down for it and then i’ll post it here for a limited time. 3-5 days. You will be able to listen to the 1st Act demo for 3-5 days then i will remove it. The same will probably the happen for the 2nd Act. They’re demo versions and they’re not actually ready to be truly out there.

Now, on to business. The idea of the modern fantastical Lost World is more or less traced to 1888’s King Solomon’s Mines. While lost cities and civilizations had certainly existed before this, from Swift’s Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels to Plato’s invention of Atlantis, these were used very specifically as satire and metaphoric demonstration. King’s Solomon’s Mines gave birth to a meme that would blossom and peak in the pulp fiction period.

After the 50s science fiction transformed the Lost World into science fiction epicness and i believed the meme evolved into something similar but more expansive. Let’s look back on some of the greatest pre WW2 Lost Worlds.

7. Kukuanaland from King Solomon’s MInes.

This list is in chronological order so let’s start with the work that invented the Lost World meme. Allan Quartermain is the victorian precursor to Indiana Jones. Truly and seriously, you can draw a direct line. In the mid 1880s lost civilizations were in fact being discovered.

Sir H. Rider Haggard’s brother told him there was no way he could write a novel as good as Treasure Island, so Haggard bet his brother 5 shillings he could. The result was a book published in 1885 that was a blockbuster, created a new genre of fantastic fiction, the Lost World story, introduced a character that was as well known for decades afterwards as Indiana Jones is now and has been adapted into at least 6 movies.

Kukuanaland is somewhere in the south east Congo region.  The inhabitants have a well-organised army and society and speak an ancient dialect of IsiZulu.  Kukuanaland’s capital is Loo, the destination of a magnificent road from ancient times. The city is dominated by a central royal kraal.

Quartermain, an adventurer based in Africa, is hired to find an aristocrat’s brother who has disappeared while trying to find the fabled mines of King Solomon.  They find an uncharted land on the other side of a mountain range called Suliman Berg, using a map drawn in blood by a dead 16th century Portegeuse explorer.

6. Kafiristan from The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

First of all, go right now and watch the 1975 film starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine. The Man Who Would Be King. It’s awesome.

Two British adventurers in India travel to some remote part of Afghanistan and try to become kings of a region there. I’d tell you more but really, go watch the movie or read the book. I never read the book, honestly, so.. you know i can only recommend the movie.

The really crazy thing about the tale is that it’s inspired by true stories,  the exploits of James Brooke, an Englishman who became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in Borneo; and by the travels of American adventurer Josiah Harlan, who was granted the title Prince of Ghor in perpetuity for himself and his descendants.

5. Maple White Land from The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Yes, Sherlock Holmes’ creator and author actually wrote other books. The Lost World was a major success when it came out in 1912 and nailed the meme down bit more.

A professor claims to have discovered dinosaurs in South America which no one believes. After years of ridicule a team joins him to prove the claim true or false. They go deep into the Amazon and find a plateau (where naturally the natives will not go). THEY go, because, well, it’s a crappy story if they don’t, and low and behold: dinosuars! Blue clay! Race of Ape Men! Humans living on the other side of the plateau with whom the ape men are at war! Capture! Rescue! Adventure!

4. Almost Everything Ever Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs But For Brevitiy’s Sake We’ll Say The Land That Time Forgot.

The Land That Time Forgot is the most cemented and stereotypical story Burroughs wrote in the Lost World genre, with dinosaurs and all (Lost Worlds often have Dinosaurs) but the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels are endless tales of lost worlds, cities and civilizations. It’s kind of Burroughs’ hallmark.

This one has an island in the South Atlantic, dinosaurs of course, various races of near human primitives, captures, escapes, etc.

3. The Savage Land from Ka-Zar by Manvis Publishing, Timely Comics and Marvel Comics

I know who Ka-Zar is, but that’s because i used to be a comics nerd. Ka-Zar was a Tarzan rip off who started in the pulps in the 1930s. It ran for 2 years, from 1936 to 37. In 1939 the tales were put into comic form by Timely Comics, who eventually became Marvel Comics. The comic series Ka-Zar was featured in was Marvel Comics and Marvel Mystery Comics, although Timely was not yet Marvel. Got it?

Thus Ka-Zar and his lost world, the Savage Land, populated by dinosaurs and strange ruins and other Tarzan-esque tropes lived on into the 40s where he then faded into obscurity.

In 1965 Timely was now Marvel and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby pulled Ka-Zar and his Savage Land out of the dustbin and revamped him. They put the Savage Land in Antartica, hidden underneath by extra terrestrials. Ka-Zar has had his own comic series a number of times, in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

2. Aquilonia or The Hyborian Age from Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian

Robert E. Howard wins the creativity award for his Lost World. He made his lost world a lost age of the earth, and invented an entire world history, map, races, geography…. he built an entire world. Nowadays we live in a post Tolkien literary world where we expect this. Fantasy books are expected to do this and even beyond books they build detailed worlds. Video games invest huge amounts of creativity into world building on a level that encapsulates visual details undreamed of. But Howard my friends, was the first. The first to really commit to building an entire world in which his stories would operate.

Robert E. Howard built the first fully realized and thought out fantasy world. His Conan character ran about it (as did a few others like Kull). He wrote out an entire history and essay so that the world would be consistent throughout the stories. His main sources of inspiration were Bullfinch’s The Outline of Mythology and Clark Aston Smith’s Hyperborea cycle. Howard and Smith and even H.P.Lovercraft were all friends and all them were hugely in favor of borrowing from each other’s works in any degree. Howard borrowed Lovecraftian monsters as well, although adapted them more for a Conan yarn.

Here’s an overview of Howard’s essay outlining Hyboria which was published until well after his death. It may seem strange me putting on so much of this, but as someone who loves to write back story himself, usually just for fun knowing it will never get used, i just LOVE this stuff, enjoy reading this and this is the guy who put fantasy back story on the map, so respect should be paid.

HYBORIA:

According to the essay, at the time of this cataclysm a group of primitive humans were at a technological level hardly above the Neanderthal. They fled to the Northern areas of what was left of the Thurian continent to escape the destruction. They discovered the areas to be safe but covered with snow and already inhabited by a race of carnivorous apes.  The apes were large with white fur and apparently native to their land. The stone age invaders engaged in a territorial war with them and eventually managed to drive them off, past the Artic Circle. Believing their enemies fated to perish and no longer interested in them, the recently arrived group adapted to their new, harsh environment and its population started to increase.

Hyborian ancestors

One thousand five hundred years later, the descendants of this initial group were called “Hyborians”. They were named after their highest ranking god deity, Bori. The essay mentions that Bori had actually been a great tribal chief of their past who had undergone deification. Their oral tradition remembered him as their leader during their initial migration to the north though the antiquity of this man had been exaggerated.

By this point the various related but independent Hyborian tribes had spread throughout the northern regions of their area of the world. Some of them were already migrating south at a “leisurely” pace in search of new areas in which to settle. The Hyborians had yet to encounter other cultural groups but engaged in wars against each other. Howard describes them as a powerful and warlike race with the average individual being tall, tawny-haired, and grey eyed. Culturally they were already accomplished artists and poets. Most of the tribes still relied on hunting for their nourishment. Their southern offshoots however had been practicing animal husbandry on cattle for a number of centuries.

The only exception to their long isolation from other cultural groups came due to the actions of a lone adventurer, unnamed in the essay. He had traveled past the Arctic Circle and returned with news that their old adversaries, the apes, were not in fact annihilated. They had instead evolved into apemen and according to his description were by then numerous. He believed they were quickly evolving to human status and would pose a threat to the Hyborians in the future. He attempted to recruit a significant military force to campaign against them. But most Hyborians were not convinced by his tales and at last only a small group of foolhardy youths followed his campaign. None of them returned.

Beginnings of the Hyborian Age

With the population of the Hyborian tribes continuing to increase, the need for new lands also increased. The Hyborians started expanding outside their familiar territories, beginning a new age of wanderings and conquests. For five hundred years the Hyborians spread towards the South and the West of their nameless continent.

They encountered other tribal groups for the first time in millennia. They conquered many smaller clans of various origins. The survivors of the defeated clans merged with their conquerors, passing on their racial traits to new generations of Hyborians. The mixed-blooded Hyborian tribes were in turn forced to defend their new territories from pure blooded Hyborian tribes which followed the same paths of migration. Often the new invaders would wipe away the defenders before absorbing them, resulting in a tangled web of Hyborian tribes and nations with varying ancestral elements within their bloodlines.

The first organized Hyborian kingdom to emerge was Hyperborea. The tribe that established it entered their Neolithic age by learning to erect buildings in stone, largely for fortification. These nomads lived in tents made out of the hides of horses, but soon abandoned them in favor of their first crude but durable stone houses. They permanently settled in fortified settlements and developed cyclopean masonry to further fortify their defensive walls.

The Hyperboreans were by then the most advanced of the Hyborian tribes and set out to expand their kingdom by attacking their backwards neighbors. Tribes who defended their territories lost them and were forced to migrate elsewhere. Others fled the path of Hyperborean expansion before ever engaging them in war. Meanwhile the “apemen” of the Arctic Circle emerged as a new race of light-haired and tall humans. They started their own migration to the south, displacing the northernmost of the Hyborian tribes.

Rulers of the West

For the next thousand years the warlike Hyborian nations advanced to become the rulers of the Western areas of the nameless continent. They encountered the Picts and forced them to limit themselves to the western wastelands which would come to be known as the “Pictish Wilderness”. Following the example of their Hyperborean cousins, other Hyborians started to settle down and create their own kingdoms.

The southernmost of the early ones was Koth which was established north of the lands of Shem and soon started extending its cultural influence over the southern shepherds. Just south of the Pictish Wilderness was the fertile valley known as “Zing”. The wandering Hyborian tribe which conquered them found other people already settled there. They included a nameless farming nation related to the people of the Shem and a warlike Pictish tribe who had previously conquered them. They established the kingdom of Zingara and absorbed the defeated elements into their tribe. Hyborians, Picts, and the unnamed kin of the Shemites would merge into a nation calling themselves Zingarans.

On the other hand at the north of the continent, the fair haired invaders from the Arctic Circle had grown in numbers and power. They continued their expansion south while in turn displacing defeated Hyborians to the south. Even Hyperborea was conquered by one of these barbarian tribes. But the conquerors here decided to maintain the kingdom with its old name, merged with the defeated Hyperboreans and adopted elements of Hyborian culture. The continuing wars and migrations would keep the state of the other areas of the continent for another five hundred years.

1. No Human Actually Knows The City’s Name And Would Probably Go Stark Raving Mad If They Did, But The Area Is Generally Known As The Mountains Of Madness from H.P. Lovecraft.

Although written in 1931 this signature Lovecraft story wasn’t published until 1936. It is the ultimate Lost World.

By the time you’re done with Lovecraft the idea of berserk man eating dinosaurs tearing towards you with teeth gnashing will seem quaint and relaxing.

What do you want me to say? It’s Lovecraft. It’s a seminal piece of his Cthulhu Mythos and one of the his most reknowned and recognized works. The Lost World he makes up is… well it’s not like you can describe the damn thing. That’s kind of the point. The geometry is… impossible. There’s an entire history and it’s a cosmological terror rooted in doomed existentialism. If you haven’t read it… i mean, come on. It’s a gospel of geek canon.

It was also down in musical form by the Tiger Lillies, who as we’ve stated in the past we are quite endeared with here at The Steampunk Opera.

That’s it, campers! Our day’s quota of fantastical candy munchies in the form of Lost Worlds.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Starmaker & First And Last Men: Olaf Stapledon

One of the towering giants of sci-fi fantasy, writing in the 1930s and whose works blew me out of the water when i read them 60 years later is Olaf Stapledon.

In particular, his two books First And Last Men and Star Maker, are two of the best sci-fi books i’ve ever read, and as such are naturally far, far outside the tropes and cliches of the genre. His works influenced the next generation of sci fi writers and he is the contemporary of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. In fact, C.S. Lewis wrote The Cosmic Trilogy in horrified response to Stapledon’s Star Maker, which was too amoral for him.

These two seminal works by Stapledon, while hugely influential and wildly beloved by segments of the sci-fi, fantasy, speculative fiction reading community have not acheived anywhere near the level of popularity of Lewis or Tolkien, mainly because he neither dwells in a pleasant realm of elves, witches and medieval myths, nor does he actually tell normal stories, where heroes go on adventures to save great Lands which are in danger. Stapleton is something entirely other. He tells long histories until the end of species or the end of time.

Last And First Men

Last And First Men is  a history of the human race, from now through our next 18 evolutions.

“A work of unprecedented scale in the genre, it describes the history of humanity from the present onwards across 2 billion years and 18 distinct human species, of which our own is the first and most primitive. Stapledon’s conception of history is a repetitive cycle with many varied civilizations rising from and descending back into savagery over millions of years, but it is also one of progress, as the later civilizations rise to far greater heights than the first. The book anticipates the science of genetic engineering, and is an early example of the (up to now) fictional supermind; a consciousness composed of many telepathically-linked individuals.”

It is wildly imaginative, and indeed that is what Stapledon does: he throws deliciously awesome concepts at you, one after the other after the others. The human race undergoes incredible transformations across numerous planets, including inventive biological transformations.

But this is no space opera. Honestly, it’s like reading a fantastic history book of an  unknown future going on and on until the final end of humanity. I loved it. Adored it. Swooned over it. Didn’t think he could be any more awesome until i read:

Star Maker

What kind of history do you write after you’ve covered the entire rest of the human species? Well duh. The future history of the universe.

It’s not just that it’s jaw dropping, it’s not just that this guy eats psychedelic mushrooms for breakfast (okay, not really. I’m just saying he’s THAT creative), it’s not just that this books invents species and planets and species interactions that were a joy, a neverending orgasm to read… it’s that all this is within a through line of creation reaching, straining, desperately searching for its Creator.

Jorge Luis Borges, Arthur C Clarke, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf and Winston Churchill all raved about it.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. This is imagination, vision and creativity at work.

I give you an excerpt. As mentioned before, his work reads like remarkable history books of times and places unseen. You need to be able to embrace this instead of a character driven narrative:

One of these submarine worlds was exceptionally interesting. Early in the life of our galaxy, when few of the stars had yet condensed from the “giant” to the solar type, when very few planetary births had yet occurred, a double star and a single star in a congested cluster did actually approach one another, reach fiery filaments toward one another, and spawn a planet brood. Of these worlds, one, an immense and very aqueous sphere, produced in time a dominant race which was not a single species but an intimate symbiotic partnership of two very alien creatures.

The one came of a fish-like stock. The other was in appearance something like a crustacean. In form it was a sort of paddle-footed crab or marine spider. Unlike our crustaceans, it was covered not with a brittle carapace but with a tough pachydermatous hide. In maturity this serviceable jerkin was more or less rigid, save at the joints; but in youth it was very pliant to the still-expanding brain. This creature lived on the coasts and in the coastal waters of the many islands of the planet. Both species were mentally of human rank, though each had specific temperament and ability. In primitive times each had attained by its own route and in its own hemisphere of the great aqueous planet to what might be called the last stage of the subhuman mentality. The two species had then come into contact, and had grappled desperately.

Their battle-ground was the shallow coastal water. The “crustaceans,” though crudely amphibian, could not spend long under the sea; the “fish” could not emerge from it. The two races did not seriously compete with one another in economic life, for the “fish” were mainly vegetarian, the “crustaceans” mainly carnivorous; yet neither could tolerate the presence of the other. Both were sufficiently human to be aware of one another as rival aristocrats in a subhuman world, but neither was human enough to realize that for each race the way of life lay in cooperation with the other. The fish-like creatures, which I shall call “ichthyoids,” had speed and range of travel. They had also the security of bulk. The crab-like or spider-like “crustaceans,” which I shall call “arachnoids,” had greater manual dexterity, and had also access to the dry land. Cooperation would have been very beneficial to both species, for one of the staple foods of the arachnoids was parasitic to the ichthyoids.

In spite of the possibility of mutual aid, the two races strove to exterminate one another, and almost succeeded. After an age of blind mutual slaughter, certain of the less pugnacious and more flexible varieties of the two species gradually discovered profit in fraternization with the enemy.

This was the beginning of a very remarkable partnership. Soon the arachnoids took to riding on the backs of the swift ichthyoids, and thus gained access to more remote hunting grounds.

As the epochs passed, the two species molded one another to form a well-integrated union. The little arachnoid, no bigger than a chimpanzee, rode in a snug hollow behind the great “fish’s” skull, his back being stream-lined with the contours of the larger creature. The tentacles of the ichthyoid were specialized for large-scale manipulation, those of the arachnoid for minute work. A biochemical interdependence also evolved. Through a membrane in the ichthyoid’s pouch an exchange of endocrine products took place. The mechanism enabled the arachnoid to become fully aquatic. So long as it had frequent contact with its host, it could stay under water for any length of time and descend to any depth. A striking mental adaptation also occurred in the two species. The ichthyoids became on the whole more introvert, the arachnoids more extrovert.

Up to puberty the young of both species were free-living individuals; but, as their symbiotic organization developed, each sought out a partner of the opposite species. The union which followed was life-long, and was interrupted only by brief sexual matings. The symbiosis itself constituted a kind of contrapuntal sexuality; but a sexuality that was purely mental, since, of course, for copulation and reproduction each individual had to seek out a partner belonging to his or her own species. We found, however, that even the symbiotic partnership consisted invariably of a male of one species and a female of the other; and the male, whichever his species, behaved with parental devotion to the young of his symbiotic partner.

I have not space to describe the extraordinary mental reciprocity of these strange couples. I can only say that, though in sensory equipment and in temperament the two species were very different, and though in abnormal cases tragic conflicts did occur, the ordinary partnership was at once more intimate than human marriage and far more enlarging to the individual than any friendship between members of distinct human races. At certain stages of the growth of civilization malicious minds had attempted to arouse widespread interspecific conflict, and had met with temporary success; but the trouble seldom went as deep even as our “sex war,” so necessary was each species to the other. Both had contributed equally to the culture of their world, though not equally at all times. In creative work of every kind one of the partners provided most of the originality, the other most of the criticism and restraint. Work in which one partner was entirely passive was rare. Books, or rather scrolls, which were made from pulped seaweed, were nearly always signed by couples. On the whole the arachnoid partners dominated in manual skill, experimental science, the plastic arts, and practical social organization. The ichthyoid partners excelled in theoretical work, in literary arts, in the surprisingly developed music of that submarine world, and in the more mystical kind of religion. This generalization, however, should not be interpreted very strictly.

The symbiotic relationship seems to have given the dual race a far greater mental flexibility than ours, and a quicker aptitude for community. It passed rapidly through the phase of inter-tribal strife, during which the nomadic shoals of symbiotic couples harried one another like hosts of submarine-cavalry; for the arachnoids, riding their ichthyoid mates, attacked the enemy with bone spears and swords, while their mounts wrestled with powerful tentacles. But the phase of tribal warfare was remarkably brief. When a settled mode of life was attained, along with submarine agriculture and coral-built cities, strife between leagues of cities was the exception, not the rule. Aided no doubt by its great mobility and ease of communication, the dual race soon built up a world-wide and unarmed federation of cities. We learned also with wonder that at the height of the premechanical civilization of this planet, when in our worlds the cleavage into masters and economic slaves would already have become serious, the communal spirit of the city triumphed over all individualistic enterprise. Very soon this world became a tissue of interdependent but independent municipal communes.

At this time it seemed that social strife had vanished forever. But the most serious crisis of the race was still to come.

The submarine environment offered the symbiotic race no great possibilities of advancement. All sources of wealth had been tapped and regularized. Population was maintained at an optimum size for the joyful working of the world. The social order was satisfactory to all classes, and seemed unlikely to change. Individual lives were full and varied. Culture, founded on a great tradition, was now concerned entirely with detailed exploration of the great fields of thought that had long ago been pioneered by the revered ancestors, under direct inspiration, it was said, of the symbiotic deity. Our friends in this submarine world, our mental hosts, looked back on this age from their own more turbulent epoch sometimes with yearning, but often with horror; for in retrospect it seemed to them to display the first faint signs of racial decay. So perfectly did the race fit its unchanging environment that intelligence and acuity were already ceasing to be precious, and might soon begin to fade. But presently it appeared that fate had decreed otherwise.

In a submarine world the possibility of obtaining mechanical power was remote. But the arachnoids, it will be remembered, were able to live out of the water. In the epochs before the symbiosis their ancestors had periodically emerged upon the islands, for courtship, parenthood, and the pursuit of prey. Since those days the air-breathing capacity had declined, but it had never been entirely lost. Every arachnoid still emerged for sexual mating, and also for certain ritual gymnastic exercises. It was in this latter connection that the great discovery was made which changed the course of history. At a certain tournament the friction of stone weapons, clashing against one another, produced sparks, and fire among the sun-scorched grasses.

In startlingly quick succession came smelting, the steam engine, the electric current. Power was obtained first from the combustion of a sort of peat formed on the coasts by congested marine vegetation, later from the constant and violent winds, later still from photo-chemical light traps which absorbed the sun’s lavish radiation. These inventions were of course the work of arachnoids. The ichthyoids, though they still played a great part in the systematization of knowledge, were debarred from the great practical work of scientific experiment and mechanical invention above the seas. Soon the arachnoids were running electric cables from the island power-stations to the submarine cities. In this work, at least, the ichthyoids could take part, but their part was necessarily subordinate. Not only in experience of electrical engineering but also in native practical ability, they were eclipsed by their arachnoid partners.

For a couple of centuries or more the two species continued to cooperate, though with increasing strain. Artificial lighting, mechanical transport of goods on the ocean floor, and large-scale manufacture, produced an immense increase in the amenities of life in the submarine cities. The islands were crowded with buildings devoted to science and industry. Physics, chemistry, and biology made great progress. Astronomers began to map the galaxy. They also discovered that a neighboring planet offered wonderful opportunities for settlement by arachnoids, who might without great difficulty, it was hoped, be conditioned to the alien climate, and to divorce from their symbiotic partners. The first attempts at rocket flight were leading to mingled tragedy and success. The directorate of extra-marine activities demanded a much increased arachnoid population.

Inevitably there arose a conflict between the two species, and in the mind of every individual of either species. It was at the height of this conflict, and in the spiritual crisis in virtue of which these beings were accessible to us in our novitiate stage, that we first entered this world. The ichthyoids had not yet succumbed biologically to their inferior position, but psychologically they were already showing signs of deep mental decay. A profound disheartenment and lassitude attacked them, like that which so often undermines our primitive races when they find themselves struggling in the flood of European civilization. But since in the case of the symbiotics the relation between the two races was extremely intimate, far more so than that between the most intimate human beings, the plight of the ichthyoids deeply affected the arachnoids. And in the minds of the ichthyoids the triumph of their partners was for long a source of mingled distress and exultation. Every individual of both species was torn between conflicting motives. While every healthy arachnoid longed to take part in the adventurous new life, he or she longed also, through sheer affection and symbiotic entanglement, to assist his or her ichthyoid mate to have an equal share in that life. Further, all arachnoids were aware of subtle dependence on their mates, a dependence at once physiological and psychological. It was the ichthyoids who mostly contributed to the mental symbiosis the power of self-knowledge and mutual insight, and the contemplation which is so necessary to keep action sweet and sane. That this was so was evident from the fact that already among the arachnoids internecine strife had appeared. Island tended to compete with island, and one great industrial organization with another.

I could not help remarking that if this deep cleavage of interests had occurred on my own planet, say between our two sexes, the favoured sex would have single-mindedly trampled the other into servitude. Such a “victory” on the part of the arachnoids did indeed nearly occur. More and more partnerships were dissolved, each member attempting by means of drugs to supply his or her system with the chemicals normally provided by the symbiosis. For mental dependence, however, there was no substitute, and the divorced partners were subject to serious mental disorders, either subtle or flagrant. Nevertheless, there grew up a large population capable of living after a fashion without the symbiotic intercourse. Strife now took a violent turn. The intransigents of both species attacked one another, and stirred up trouble among the moderates. There followed a period of desperate and confused warfare. On each side a small and hated minority advocated a “modernized symbiosis,” in which each species should be able to contribute to the common life even in a mechanized civilization. Many of these reformers were martyred for their faith.

Victory would in the long run have gone to the arachnoids, for they controlled the sources of power. But it soon appeared that the attempt to break the symbiotic bond was not as successful as it had seemed. Even in actual warfare, commanders were unable to prevent widespread fraternization between the opposed forces. Members of dissolved partnerships would furtively meet to snatch a few hours or moments of each other’s company. Widowed or deserted individuals of each species would timidly but hungrily venture toward the enemy’s camps in search of new mates. Whole companies would surrender for the same purpose. The arachnoids suffered more from the neuroses than from the weapons of the enemy. On the islands, moreover, civil wars and social revolutions made the manufacture of munitions almost impossible.

The most resolute faction of the arachnoids now attempted to bring the struggle to an end by poisoning the ocean. The islands in turn were poisoned by the millions of decaying corpses that rose to the sea’s surface and were cast up on the shores. Poison, plague, and above all neurosis, brought war to a standstill, civilization to ruin, and the two species almost to extinction. The deserted sky-scrapers that crowded the islands began to crumble into heaps of wreckage. The submarine cities were invaded by the submarine jungle and by shark-like sub-human ichthyoids of many species. The delicate tissue of knowledge began to disintegrate into fragments of superstition.

Now at last came the opportunity of those who advocated a modernized symbiosis. With difficulty they had maintained a secret existence and their individual partnerships in the more remote and inhospitable regions of the planet. They now came boldly forth to spread their gospel among the unhappy remnants of the world’s population. There was a rage of interspecific mating and remating. Primitive submarine agriculture and hunting maintained the scattered peoples while a few of the coral cities were cleared and rebuilt, and the instruments of a lean but hopeful civilization were refashioned. This was a temporary civilization, without mechanical power, but one which promised itself great adventures in the “upper world” as soon as it had established the basic principles of the reformed symbiosis.

…………………

This is of course merely one world amongst many as the author joins with other sentient beings to create a cosmic hive mind which travels the universe and time to find its Creator.

So… great fantastic fiction of the Dieselpunk era. Olaf Stapledon.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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