Gray World

Cover for 'Gray World: Stealing Fire'

This is a separately published, Celtic-themed science fiction novella. It is inspired by two dreams I had, the first one coming complete with the title The Fabulous Gray World of Vagabond, and featuring a visceral, very vivid science fiction noire atmosphere, centred in an ‘orbital world’. The other dream depicted a kind of far future ‘bard’, an antihero of sorts being challenged to help alleviate ‘the language famine’ plaguing a science fiction ‘orbital’ culture. I have ended up incorporating elements of Irish-Scottish mythic history.

Gray World: Stealing Fire is available for purchase here: http://www.whitecatpublications.com/products-page/scifi/ and here: http://www.amazon.com/Gray-World-Stealing-Fire-ebook/dp/B008A7W5OY

But unfortunately, I am seeking another publisher for this book. Although my science fiction book, Gray World: Stealing Fire is available for sale at White Cat Publications, and is available as an ebook on Amazon through Sam’s Dot (its former publisher that was bought by White Cat), like its other writers I have been receiving no communication from this publisher and for various reasons am convinced they are no longer a viable entity. I own the copyright to Gray World as it was not  transferred to White Cat in the changeover. I can be contacted here if you are interested: silexv@gmail.com

I truly hope that this very complex society that has been created is not just to be used in this novella as it is an intriguing one. I enjoyed “Gray World: Stealing Fire” and read it at a single sitting. Well written and different.”
–Gail Jamieson, Probe Magazine (from a review of the Sam’s Dot release of the book)

Here is the blurb that appears on the back of the book:

Gray World: Stealing Fire

In the far future a fusion of meditative practices, magic/witchcraft, and quantum physics has developed into a new craft called waveseership, practiced by waveseers, who dreamfold waves flowing in quantavium light, thereby shaping the form of outer events.

A majority of the affluent has taken refuge in vast orbital cities, powered by energy culled from massive mining of planetary resources.  This mining has led to planets rapidly entering an uninhabitable super-storm condition colloquially known as becoming a ‘gray world’.

In Westpoint, New Skye, on the dying hope of planet Skaha, a drunken Vagabond is lying unconscious in a park. Once a renowned waveseer, Vagabond has fallen to the depths, knows firsthand, as a failed hypocrite, the full range of human hypocrisy.

Sky, true warrior daughter of Skaha, embraces and knights Vagabond for exactly his convoluted, compromised virtues. In the silence of his eyes Sky finds solace from the murder in her heart. In his waveseer skill Sky finds Vagabond is also a worthy ally in espionage.

Together they must decide whether to trust an alien client who would charge them with stealing a most unusual, mathematical fire, and perhaps thereby honor the memory of a dead, gray world.

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The Infinite Living Room: Two Views of a Secret

Here is a chapter from my novel, The Infinite Living Room. I am currently seeking a publisher for this book

The Infinite Living Room is written in the style of magical realism, deals more directly with themes I have been exploring on this blog in posts like Bus Yoga, and Felt Sense and Nonsense, in the form of a psychological mystery characterized by frequent dips into the waters of dreamtime.

First, as a lead in, here is an idea of what would appear on the back of the book:

Gradually, half with the willingness of a daring explorer, and half with all-too-human terror, Martin Saxon finds his simple life expanding into an infinite living room.

What begins for writer Martin Saxon as a routine trip to give a lecture at a university flowers into a quest of such intensity that it splits open his psyche into bizarre, and by times violently competing approaches to that quest.

These approaches manifest in the form of three fantastical agents, who blur the lines between dream and reality.

Did he hire them, as they claim? If so, why? And why can’t he remember doing so?

These agents take as their debating platform and battleground the dreamscape city of Quantavium, into which Martin finds himself slipping while sleeping, and increasingly, while awake.

Is Martin going mad? Or is he experiencing some vaudevillian form of Zen illumination?

Chapter Eleven

Two Views of a Secret

Martin’s dream journal:

Fred and I were shown into a sort of heaven that didn’t seem right: It was too cutesy and typical, with friendly (heavenly) but disappointingly stereotypical angels and such flying around, in a swirl of pinks and reds. So we turned back to try again. A mysterious woman, a sort of secret agent (J. P. Infinity?), who apparently had led us to the first heaven or dimension, created another doorway for Fred and I to go through.

This time we entered a sort of bus or train terminal with people standing around (broad spaces, high ceilings, lit with bright sunlight coming in through narrow windows and open doors). We left quickly—it was an uncomfortable, threateningly ‘official’ place—and began walking across a field, through the town.

It was an alternate, utopian or dystopian world—It wasn’t clear which. But I saw a clear vision of a city bus going by. On its side, written in big letters, were the words ‘Transit Vace.’ I immediately inferred from this that their language was altered but still similar to mine.

Then at a bus stop we were standing around with a group of people on a muddy, trash-covered curb. Suddenly an environmental policeman pulled up to the curb in a sci-fi van. He assigned particular people to various trash disposal duties. It was illegal to disobey. The chosen people piled up trash and sprayed it with a special super glue that made the piles solid, then they threw all the solidified piles into the policeman’s specially equipped disposal van. I contemplated picking something up voluntarily, but didn’t (I justified this to myself, with dubious conviction, by noting that I wasn’t one of the people chosen by the policeman).

The scene shifted to somewhere else in the same world. There was a student who was being questioned outside his room, in a university residence. The man who questioned him was an agent of the state. The agent drilled him to prove his merit in society. The student listed his academic achievements. It appeared that he was doing exceptionally well  . . . except for his environmental duties. The agent began to recite something taken out of state dogma, but the student cockily finished what the agent was saying for him, listing The Three Things that everyone in society was supposed to uphold, which just happened to be tacked up on the student’s door on a piece of paper (there was a feeling that they were tacked up on every student’s door). They were self-against-self, self-editing, or self-criticizing injunctions, known as The Three Paranoias:

1 The Paranoia of Survival

2 The Paranoia of Social Conformity

3 The Paranoia of Responsibility

Martin read over what he’d written of his dream carefully, keeping mentally in touch with the feelings and certainties he’d felt while dreaming. As he often did, he noticed upon looking back that there had been a reality surrounding the dream which was simply assumed, like the way everyone assumes the complex, meaningful world surrounding their waking identities. And there were vivid emotional nuances that he felt while dreaming, which he couldn’t get down on paper, just like with normal memories.

Martin placed his dream journal beside the bed again. He decided to go back to sleep, since there was nothing pressing he had to do that day.

He drifted into sleep, into sitting at a kitchen table, drinking coffee and looking across at the linear flux-time assassin, Voratio Santini.

Their table was in the middle of a low bridge stretching across a harbour. The grey colours of the scene seemed to shift around them, a blurry, rhythmic movement, like an image reflected in water. But Voratio’s form stayed sharp, the boundaries of his image remaining as dark, thick lines, like a character in a black and white animation.

Voratio took a deep breath through his nostrils, made a sweeping gesture with his hand, and said, with absolute conviction, “Wishful thinking assumes that what you desire is unlikely to occur, whereas making things really happen is accepting the idea that your firm, determined intent will in fact cause that thing to happen, step-by-step. If it doesn’t happen then you are being insincere in your conviction, there are hidden reservations in your psyche, or the intentions of others may be blocking you. It helps to have abundant energy and good concentration. Although the exploration of methods to take advantage of this is up to you, there are traditional ways, long ago worked out, which I highly recommend you avail yourself of.”

“That having been said, it is best that you work with the situation you find yourself in, such that you view it as having naturally arisen out of your individuality and decisions.” Voratio placed his hands palms down upon the table and thrust his face at Martin. An open, but grey sky framed Voratio’s angular features. “You have chosen me to be your representative of systems, of tried-and-true methods that can provide sure success along the path. I strongly suggest that you follow the few basic principles I am presenting to you. It is best that you not ignore the examples of the many who have gone before you.” He began to trace figures on the table with his finger, as if etching these basic principles into its wood. “Look for possible openings without setting your sights on one particular route, because the path of least resistance that would best fulfill your truest intent may be something you could not possibly foresee. It is not for you to plan out, in all of its ineffable details, the scenario of your ultimate fulfillment, as perhaps you already know.” Voratio looked at him searchingly, and maybe somewhat suspiciously.

“Yes.”

“So it comes down to not just focusing your attention on particulars, although that is important, but also on the overall intent of a thing, because to obsess over one part, is to neglect the whole.”

“Understood.”

“It seems to me that to a degree you are already informed in what I am telling you.” Voratio said, a little pointedly.

“Yes, but it helps to have someone as casually familiar in its actual implementation to explain it, to get a taste of that . . . casual assuredness.”

“Glad,” Voratio said, his face transforming into an enormous grin, “to be of service.”

Martin then saw a flash of movement within the top periphery of his vision. Voratio put his hand out quickly, grin vanishing, to catch his attention, but Martin was already looking up, at J. P. Infinity, who stood balancing on top of a high wooden pole, like the lookout on a sailing ship. Her sturdy, voluptuous form, along with the vitality that made her flesh firm, her glowing cheeks, her breasts, made her like a fruit-bearing tree, the wild hair on her head breathing the sky, the light. She had her hand up over her eyes, as if she were scanning for land, or saluting the horizon. Above her in the sky hung a full moon, shining.

The water surrounding them had become the endless, vast ocean, the unknown, the landscape of the unsaid. It remained hidden, unseen, like the deep ocean below you as you swim on your back, yet it seethed with an awesome, terrifying intelligence, infusing Martin with a secret excitement, an exquisite knowing. It was the genuine promise of mystery which has always yet to unfold, the true vastness of things, forever in between the lines.

She jumped, all in one motion, performing a swan dive, down into the abyss. He could feel her descent in his guts. He wanted to cry out, a victory howl, in celebration of her bravery.

At the last moment, just as the fingertips of her outstretched hands were about to break the surface of the deep, he saw that she had tied a bungee cord to her ankles. She bounced smoothly back up to the top of the pole, then gazed coolly down upon him, eyebrows raised, questioningly.

My most recent (science fiction) book is Gray World: Stealing Fire: https://theinfinitelivingroom.com/2012/04/13/gray-world-11/

Probe reviews Gray World

A favourable review of my speculative fiction book Gray World: Stealing Fire, has just come out in issue 153 of Probe, the official magazine of the SFFSA.

My science fiction book, Gray World: Stealing Fire, is no longer available at  White Cat publications, due to White Cat’s internal difficulties that have recently come to light (I am no longer contractually obligated to White Cat). I am currently seeking a new publisher.

See this post for a full description: https://theinfinitelivingroom.com/2012/04/13/gray-world-11/

St. Patrick’s Day Yeats Essay

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I was struck by how a book by an Irishman, the poet and magician William Butler Yeats, arrived at my door on St. Patrick’s Day morning: The Tower. I had ordered it through Amazon, realising that my compilation of Yeats’ poetry did not have all of the poems in that book, which I wanted to study.

This gave me the thought of sharing an essay I wrote inspired by a study of Yeats I made and continue to make, that in turn was sparked by surprising dreams of Yeats (especially the first one: I didn’t know anything of Yeats when I had it)  and by the odd fact that I had read of a poet (Wordsworth) who had a habit, beginning in childhood, of repeating his own name until he would reach an exalted state of consciousness. I was very fascinated by his description of this odd ritual, which I read while spending a very creative year living in Vancouver, and upon moving to Germany for a time I decided to use the excellent library available to me there to research this poet more. But I was convinced this name-repeating poet was Yeats. I couldn’t find reference to this process in his works or letters, and after a while realised that I had bizarrely mixed them up, but by then I didn’t care, having discovered a deep resonance with the person of Yeats. The following essay came out of that early study while I was living and studying in Stuttgart, newly edited for 2011 St. Patrick’s Day.

William Butler Yeats appears to have had a strong sense, perhaps especially in the 20’s, of there being an impending change, a change that would entail a massive spiritual shift in the course the world had thus far been taking. He seemed to see this change as not necessarily being disastrous, but nonetheless one that would have very difficult aspects, or which would be traumatic and uncompromising in its effects. What follows is an analysis of The Second Coming[1] and Leda and the Swan[2] in the light of this sense of Yeats’ that the world was entering a new phase. I will also discuss the similarity in attitude, in these two poems, to the ‘divine,’ and try to draw out what this attitude is, chiefly by examining the concept of pity, as it is presented in the automatic writing of Yeats’ wife, George.

One reading of The Second Coming is that in it Yeats is presenting his view that during his time the order of things had become dangerously inverted, and is suggesting that a messiah is awakening, one whose character will be suited to challenging this unwholesome state of affairs. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”(S) When reading these lines it is natural to think of, especially for us looking back, the many wars in the first part of the century, and also of the many revolutions gone wrong. And you have this peculiar fascination, at this time, on behalf of great artists and philosophers, with fascism, as if, experiencing their solitary efforts as futile, or by becoming confused by the confrontation of their complexity of thought with the accelerating change and madness of the world, they took refuge in what seemed to be simple, firm, direct routes. Yeats presents this worldwide turbulence as a process just beginning to unfold—as the gyre revolves the process of inversion of the proper relation of things, of madness, progresses.
But the dominant image of The Second Coming is that of some sort of nightmarish saviour figure. “Surely some revelation is at hand.”(S) For Yeats the chaos he observed, the massive change in culture, suggested or entailed that a shift was taking place on a spiritual level, that a movement into a new phase of the world, like that initiated by Christ, was in a sense being forced. This vision has a feeling of violence, like in Leda and the Swan. It is an inhuman, animal-like divinity, which has no regard for the small cares and temporally bound morality of a selfish humanity. “A shape with lion body and the head of a man,/ A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun.”(S)

“How can those terrified vague fingers push/ The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?”(L) In Leda there is a similar notion as in Second Coming of being helpless before a terrifying, inhuman divine force, ‘announcing’ its arrival, moving inexorably in on the human realm with the intent to bend things to its more powerful will, to impregnate reality with a truth which cuts through all mere ephemeral, human truths (or concerns).

“But now I know/ That twenty centuries of stony sleep/ Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.” The turmoil of Yeats’ day is the rocking of the cradle of the new messiah, the signs of the second coming. What comes is a mystery, like the riddle of the sphinx, but Yeats predicts it as being something that will follow the ugliness, and also the hugeness, of the changes he sees; a frightening, powerful beast of a prophet, whose mercilessness is necessary to meet the challenge of announcing authoritatively the advent of a new era.

One could easily read in the anti-Christ image here, but it doesn’t seem to hold given the thrust of Yeats’ work—it seems very uncharacteristic. Really the image again appears very similar to the Swan, Zeus, in Leda: “A sudden blow: the wings beating still/ Above the struggling girl, her thighs caressed/ By the dark webs…” it is a brutal image of divinity being presented here too, and the anti-Christ is nowhere in sight. Yeats has said, when talking of how he began writing Leda, because asked to for a political review, “Nothing is now possible but some movement from above preceded by some violent annunciation.”[3] He thought this when reflecting on the political situation, which is not there in Leda, but is metaphorically sketched in Second Coming.

Yeats went on to say “but as I wrote, bird and lady took such possession of the scene that all politics went out of it.” In a way a similar process is communicated in The Second Coming, in that the initial imagery of disorder on the level of worldly affairs is swallowed by the powerful image of an ominous messiah. In both poems there is a strong implication of the “god influence” overriding everything else, and particularly of it being ‘pitiless;’ perhaps in the same sense that natural forces, like the wind or changing seasons, are pitiless. Yeats forecasts a spiritual tempest.

A similar way of thinking seems to be present in these lines from Byzantium[4]:

 

A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains/All that man is,/ All mere complexities,/

The fury and the mire of human veins.

Here the divine cuts through all human concepts. This is an unusual way of presenting something that is commonly expressed in spiritual teaching I think. We are often told of the insights, the realisations, the ‘state of enlightenment,’ that is beyond conceptualisation. No words can describe it. It is the peace that passes all understanding. But what does it actually entail for someone who lives in a state like this to be living amongst people who are determined to remain in the kind of happiness (or unhappiness) that only ‘works’ if they continue to operate within their habitual webs of conceptualisation? Yeats seems to say that it might be a rude awakening to encounter someone who completely disregards one’s habitual, conceptual mode of being. And this disregard for the world of human conceptual forms seems necessarily to entail even the subtlest ‘spiritual’ thoughts concocted by the cleverest human mind (such as the mind of Yeats). And so, “A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun.”(S) will not be fooled by even the subtlest facade; those attached to their facades, rather than those who only wear them for convenience, will be rendered uncomfortable.

A whole range of complexities is opened up with this line of thought in fact. For instance, there is also the matter of many—a great many—who are actively engaged in a spiritual path of some kind, like Yeats, who may even understand the implications of leaving behind a conceptually based mode of perceiving (meaning, I suggest, not necessarily being divested of the range of possibility inherent in the mastering of conceptual thinking, but rather becoming a being whose mode of action does not include identifying ‘itself’ with any conceptual clothing—soul, personality, atman, or otherwise)—so even for these spiritual adepts there is the embarrassment of there being nowhere to hide. There then arises for them the paradox of trying to become a no one who does not have to try to hide.

In the midst of being overpowered by the pitiless divine influence, it seems that Yeats suggests a chance of learning or benefiting from the encounter:

Being so caught up/So mastered by the brute blood of the air/Did she

put on his knowledge with his power/Before the indifferent beak could

let her drop?(L)

But it is entirely left to the overwhelmed mortal to take advantage of the encounter; this is not Jesus Christ washing ones feet.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly what Yeats aimed at in his thought. It is known that he had a great deal of experience in exploring mystical states, had many spontaneous visionary experiences, and that he became very involved with systematising the information obtained through questioning his wife George, who had the gift of automatic writing. In this body of automatic writing much was said about recurrence of the ‘messiah spirit’ at around our time, which would come in the form of multiple persons each fulfilling the messianic function. The Second Coming was of course influenced by this very large body of information.

So a great deal of information would have to be analysed and synthesised to really get at the precise meaning of Yeats’ later poems. But perhaps a common element can be easily perceived in Leda and Second Coming. It seems the central idea that is present in both is that of divinity being without pity. In Yeats’s Vision Papers[5] the implications of  ‘having pity’ are presented with a peculiar precision:

6. What character of these changes will make this a preparation for this

especial avatar?

6. Bitterness.

7. Why will bitterness prepare for him?

7. Because it is impervious to pity & amenable to passion & thought.

8. What kind of event will produce this bitterness?

8. All events are producing it.

10. Why must we grow impervious to pity?

10. If we were not impervious we would have no place for a new avatar.

11. Why is the new Avatar incompatible with pity?

12. Pity destroys passion & thought.

14. Is the new avatar love without pity?

14. Love & understanding instead of pity & help.

By reading through Yeats’s Vision Papers an idea of how pity is understood can be pieced together. It is not necessarily considered to be bad; in fact it seems that the previous Christ is thought to have been characterised by a kind of pity. But the previous Christ came at the wide end of the gyre (the Buddha is seen as the initiator and Christ the finisher of the overall ‘avatar influence’ of that age, or extreme end of a gyre). The new messiah spirit (here interestingly alleged as not being limited to one person) comes at the narrow end of a gyre and thus has a different character—I gather it is to be more stark, clear, stripped of superfluities, and so in this sense, ‘pitiless’.

In support of this, it does seem that our modern age is very exacting, very much occupied with examining things in exhaustive detail, peeling away the layers down to the bare bone, such that no theme is sacred or off limits: morality—think of all the talk shows, which, however melodramatic, are peculiarly liberal in their dealing with all forms of human behaviour or systems of morality; law (when has the topic of law ever been so thoroughly dissected and dramatised?); spirituality (even this well-worn topic has been expanded beyond compare of late); science (wow!), etc. ad infinitum. All of the major and minor concerns of humanity have in our age been both focused in on, in minute detail, and also are being looked at from an ever-widening—cross-cultural, worldwide, universal—point of view. Including war, suffering, pain, death, perversion, cruelty. How long has child rape been going on in the Catholic church but only now is being uncovered in lurid detail, such that the beautiful, elegant outer covering is wearing thin indeed? And the more they resist finally changing, enlightening the stiff, blood-encrusted church dogmas, the thinner and more tragically awkward this covering becomes–and the more bitterness is created. But this is only one example. Their have been massive, televised disillusionments, followed by massive enthusiasm to remedy the corruption, make it change through sheer zeal, but the result, for many—bitter defeat; the momentum of history is too strong; the old selfish, machiavellian ways just change their clothing.

In one passage of the Papers, Yeats questions the control about pity again, wanting to know what was considered to be unproductive about it. The control replied that pity falls short (and this is perhaps meant: ‘in the context of what is now needed’) because it desires that the object pitied become like itself:  Pity attaches the subject to the object according to this dualistic relationship. This appeared to involve something Yeats resisted whenever it came up in these dialogues with his entranced wife George, namely the notion that a more allusive, sensual, romantic approach was no longer enough even for the poetically minded–development of clear thinking, of philosophical precision, was also now necessary. And in fact he did begin in later life a concerted program of hard study inspired by these dialogues, which also informed his poetry. And it seems to entail of course that the old dogmatic, sentimental edifices, no matter how beautifully they may be clothed, will be seen increasingly through due to the ‘bitterness’ produced by how they let us down.

I do not think that Leda and the Swan or The Second Coming, or the information found in Yeats’s Vision Papers can be used to say that William Butler Yeats was not firmly convinced of the utility of compassion, of helping out in the warmest, most genuine fashion one’s spirit allows. I think the message is more complicated than ‘pity versus pitiless’, as those terms are normally understood. It seems to be pointing at a mystery; that ‘to have no pity’ is to be in the strongest position to practice compassion, to move forward toward a fairer, grander spirituality.

Pictures from Yeats’ Golden Dawn magical journal:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/herbisorbis/sets/72157608564177882/


[1] “The Second Coming.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Sixth Edition, The Major Authors. New York. London. W. W. Norton & Company, 1990. p.2280 All further quotes from this edition and indicated by (S).

[2] “Leda and the Swan.” The Norton etc. pp.2283-2284. All further quotes from this edition and indicated by (L).

[3] From first footnote in above addition of Leda and the Swan. p.2283

[4] “Byzantium.” The Norton etc. p2288.

[5] Yeats’s Vision Papers, Volume Two. Iowa City, University of Iowa Pres. Copyright 1992 by Anne Yeats. pp.

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