Category: Fiction

Soul Optimization

Against SuperheroesI just did a victory lap around wooden columns in my kitchen and demanded high-fives all around: Against Superheroes is done. Well, technically it just topped the first hurdle.  Core writing is complete at 100,801 words. I will now do two editorial passes and then send it to my editor for clean-up. Finally, I’ll get some feedback from my wife before sending it out for independent review.

I try to write according to a daily schedule but I have historically been an inconsistent worker. I track everything using a spreadsheet and it doesn’t look pretty:


Note the long gaps. The gaps are problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is that I have to go back and read everything again to return to form. The gaps arrive with excuses, then get amplified by more excuses, then get massaged into to-do lists, and then always get resolved by unknown forces. Maybe they are unknowable.

The one consistency that I have found is that I always start strong and finish strong, bursts of enthusiasm for the project arriving with runner’s high on the trail, or while waiting in traffic. The plot thickets open to luxuriant fields. When I’m in the gap periods I distract myself too easily, finding the deep research topics an easy way to justify an additional pause of days, then weeks, sometimes months.

I guess I should resolve to find my triggers and work to overcome these tendencies, but I’m not certain that it matters. There is no rush, and those exuberant starts and ends are perhaps enough of a reward that no deeper optimization of my soul is needed.

Dates, Numbers, and Canadian Makings

Against SuperheroesOn the 21st of June, 1997, which was the solstice, my wife and I married. We celebrated that date again today, but it is not the solstice again due to astronomical drift around the calendar. And I also crossed the border of 100,000 words on Against Superheroes, moving towards resolution of a novel that could, conceivably, have no ending. There are always more mythologies to be explored.

Just last week I was in Banff, Canada, sitting quietly with my bear spray and a little titanium cook pot. I didn’t have to deploy the mace, and was relieved I also didn’t have to endure twelve hours of wolf stalking like this Canadian woman.

And while I was north of the US border, I learned that a Canadian animated film I was involved with was released to Amazon Prime video. I am just an Executive Producer of the film, which means that I had no creative input, but I am really pleased with the film. Ironically, I couldn’t watch this Canadian product while in Canada, just an hour from the studio that produced it. But rest assured that Christmas will be saved in the end!

Against Superheroes: Section 11 (Chapter 8)

Against SuperheroesThe twin horns, the god dilemma. In retrospect, for that period and the aberrancy that flowed through my mind, there remained a small piece of me that was grounded in the sad derelicts of my moral constructions. Could I simply be moral because I was a god? Or was the moral order external to me making me irrelevant. Irrelevant or arbitrary. I reflect now, under some control, on my perverse desires during that period (really they never left me but were just suppressed and—what is the term?—sublimated into other actions). But perhaps that is the very nature of the trajectory I was on: the breakdown and atomization of my soul or personality, and the reconstruction of it like some child emerging from the jungle, biting fellow kindergartners, until the rough edges of her being are chiseled off by running the complex maze of sharp-cornered lessons. I had been reborn and was still the wolf child.

The mythologies I was trained in tell me only sometimes about the growth of gods from childhood. Endymion, Bellerophon, Baal and Anat, they all emerge without any sense of tempest in their birth or any period of maturation. Even Jesus was born, revered, and then was spreading the word of his own godliness without any explication about the transitional period. I can only imagine the difficulty of raising that boy, whether he was arrogant towards his mother and stepfather or was stinking of zen, as the Japanese would say, so holier than thou that mother and father just suppressed contempt until the little carpenter was old enough to be thrust out into the world.

There was an intensity to the feeling and beliefs during the transformation, a rising up of what might be translated as pride, but a pride that was baseless, having been sucked of all the historical content of achievements and accolades that might result in pride. I just had the feeling in isolation, a welling of energetic sensations that made me feel entitled and empowered. Humans were in my sensorium, nearby like pointillistic fields of overlapping waves. There is wave-particle duality in quantum physics, I think. I don’t claim to understand it deeply, but it argues something like that the tiny little particles—electrons and gluons and quarks and whatnot—are all a bit like waves and a bit like particles. They are little probability waves limited in their spatial extent. They may materialize randomly or they may not, sparing Schrödinger’s cat, but they are a duality of ordinary properties that we observe in the world, waves like in water and particles like billiard balls. I think I can sense these fields that govern matter. They may look like overlays of bluish light on the world but they are really magnitudes and potentialities. And the choices, moral or otherwise, of every being I could see had predetermined trajectories like elaborate domino arrays collapsing into a picture of the future. It was in this inevitability that I lost interest in the notion of humanity. They were much less than sheep because at least sheep are governed by urges, but the reactions of specific ewes and lambs have some element of unpredictability. I could see this in the layered interactions of the points, folded around the animal’s brains, and the human ones, too. This certitude faded with distance, the distinctiveness of the points breaking down, first into semi-predictable blobs, but then drifting into a vague heat map of possible actions beyond about three hundred meters.

Without difference, without a private self immune to scrutiny by others, in a strange panopticon of god’s surveillance, the self collapses to become a worshipper only. Nothing else can be dreamt of. The self dissipates and flows up into god. My people in my little oasis, in my chambers, they were attached to the first horn because they were entwined within me by my mental scrutiny pervading their own. This happened without effort and without any ability to intervene because the core sense of standard propriety was gone. I could only exploit and use and became the central moral thesis. I could read their thoughts, too, that tens of thousands of soldiers, students, wives, fathers, and peasants had given up Islam, ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, the Asad regime, their tribal affiliations, their family traditions, and were enthralled by me alone. The name Baal was once again spoken as more than just about arid horticulture. I was the light and the truth, with bowing towards Mecca replaced with bowing towards my storms.

There were these tiny little moments during that time, moments that I can just barely remember, but that are still hiding in my memories like darting squirrel phantoms, that show me how base I was. The fear of my people was a drug to me, their sexual excitations, performed like a stage drama, was an elixir, and when I raped and murdered them or had them rape or murder another, it was a reservoir of instantaneous climactic intoxication. But seeing that cold self-control from their previous Muslim lives hidden behind their dispositions ailed me. It made me feel cold, too, and the effervescent blur subsided until there was a contemptuous hollow like my former human self, though without the shielding of moral impetus.

I soared over the battlefields and revealed myself to crowds of young men, huddled in ridiculous drapery behind desert hills, pointing their assault rifles towards me until they cowered and became mine, departing on a hejira towards the oasis where tent cities formed around my temple. The skies were perpetually dark and roiling here, circulated by a permament afterglow of my will even when I was flying far away. I tried to discern what made these young men become the jiahdis that they had been, delving into the structures of their beliefs, but I came up with very little. It was as much an urge to power, I realized, as my own exaggerated self. There was a certain laziness, too, with so many of them detesting the meager jobs and familial expectations that surrounded them. Auto mechanic, day laborer, shepherd, bank teller—these were nothing compared with their roles as part of the great Caliphate. At first I abused these lowly zealots more than others, setting them up in gladiatorial spectacles with just knives and frying pans, robbing them of their AK-47s and RPGs. If they wanted to serve a higher power, why not through demonstrations of strength? But this bored me even more than the endless orgies of the most beautiful that haunted my chambers. Punishing them for their simple humanity made no more sense than merely instrumentalizing them. So then I began forming my own army out of them, making them shave their bodies and heads then dress in white linen military coats that the women sewed for them, the word Baal in Arabic stitched in red across their backs. I wasn’t sure who I wanted them to fight, however. I could more easily just co-opt little tribal paramilitary groups into becoming part of my retinue, so why destroy them?

That galled my scholarly self most about the ancient histories. The internecine warfare, constant and unabated, the conquering and conquerings, the subjugation by Hellenists and Romans, and the steadfastness of Yahweh and El, of Jesus and Allah, against all opposition, and yet I could just turn them all to shower me with their  praise, the emotional tsunami greater than any petty skirmish over land and water, and profited little from warfare. If I was the Baal of old, consumed by Mot, child of El and Ashera, humanity was just an essential toy, but irrelevant to any grand scheme. In every ancient religion, there are consequences for not worshipping in the circumscribed rituals. We have the Sabbath requirements, the aversion to pork, the necessity of Halal, the baptism in water, and the consquences are hell and purgatory, disavowal and tribal sanctimony, or even killing. All that morality amounted to was obedience and tribal affiliation. At least some of the ancients had temple prostitutes and secret knowledge. There were unknowns and inner sanctums.

And so there I was on the horns of this dilemma, transfixed by the opportunities—so dreadful and irrelevant—about what I should do with myself and my time and my worshippers. I wanted them. I needed their emotions, pain and joy, sexual frustration, and cruel excitations. I had to have them but I had nothing to do for them. It was this dilemma that hung over me every day, broken only by my mad, beautiful flights into the plumage of evening storms, across the sands and villages, like misaligned matrixes, cupped in the runnels of the hills. I soared over them and they watched from below in ecstatic awe at their new god. And the sad irony was that I had nothing but pain and abuse for them. At first I thought I was enough. That the relationship was enough. They worshipped and I absorbed. But I felt the weight of the history of the god experience hanging on me like a heavy, wet cloak. I was supposed to guide them and direct them, for their greater good. And the horn would be determined by my will, derived from my unknown new resolve, interpolating the good from some sense of history that was just a distant, abrasive cloth, or maybe from new directives. I tried to imagine what those should be beyond worship. They could be good to one another. They could make war on the Muslims or the American drones growling around my cloud masses. They could build water desalinization projects. But it was all inconsequential. A few would live, a few would improve, but the worship would continue unabated. I could focus on maximizing the intensity of my experience of them but the models and mechanisms for achieving that were unknown to me. Sexual intensity was initially appealing, then violence, then transgressive combinations of both, but there was no continuity to any of it. The novelty rose, peaked, and then was gone again like a darting rabbit.

The only conclusion available to me was that the religious experience of the worshipper had to be conditioned on a love commitment that demanded little from me. It was mostly an internal phenomena for them, constructed of their personal relationship with Baal, with Jesus, with Allah. It didn’t really matter much at all who I was. I could be an English footballer or Ronald Reagan. Insofar as the love was not putrified by any misdeeds or violations of some mental contract of fear and love that was instituted from early on or by a lack of discernment, the object of their worship was inconsequential. They believed in me, wanted me, and wanted me to be something transcendant to them.

The history of Yahweh was at least as pathetic as my own. Like a discredited huckster he demands of his creation that they obey his dictats concerning the knowledge of good and evil, then punishes the entire human race forever when Eve unknowingly violates his strictures. This asinine moral copula is just amplified by his unholy destruction of the entire earth later on in Genesis with the Noachian flood. I blundered. I, in all my omniscience, didn’t foresee the ineluctable tendency of my own creations to violate my trust. A god who is incompetent and immoral and petty should be an abandoned god but, as my own subjects showed, beat them enough into submission and even the smartest and most incorrigible will bend to your will. My will, oh my will, was great and permeated their thoughts all through their days. I made sure of that when I was in close proximity to them. I could only imagine El and Yahweh, brutally obsessed with their own internecine deeds and proclivities, picking these tumults from some laundry list of options for the perverse persecution of their followers. And the followers recorded it all in some transcriptive form, harmonized after a return from Balylonian exile, from Persian co-existence, wrapped into something that held the ancient conundrums of these moral horns but also tried to build a new understanding of what had befallen them. There had to be a moral order, sensible and emerging from a natural science of sin, from some elemental failing of human capacities that translated into insignificance before immeasurable powers. That was what I was and the rest of it was a construct in their own minds. I could feel it, too, the rapt beliefs filtering down like layers of gray water pebble beds, emerging into a consistent narrative. I was Baal, the storm god come to deliver the Middle East from desert purgation. This meme was becoming pervasive, transmitted like a tiny virus through all the people. They didn’t want more cell phones or an afterlife, just more water for their olive groves and garbanzo beans. I was a weather phenomena who raped their girls until they died. It seemed a small price to pay for a god, and the inconsistency of it was lost in waves of explanation, of apologetics, that emerged from their hope for something that led them out of their meager lives. At least we have a god they seemed to say and think.

I can’t project effectively back into the minds of the ancient people that I studied for so long. They believed things that I can’t comprehend and were limited by a tiny woven fabric of contingency and self and tribe and meager education. They had worldviews, much though that term makes me ill, and their views formed shadows that were only eclipsed by simple day-to-day activities like defecation and tending to their crops. Everything else, from animal killing and eating to fornication and family, were guided by these moral films shrinkwrapped over every tiny interaction. I have lost my sympathy for these things, these tiny worships and admonitions that built up into angry familial confrontations about righteousness and jealousy, and see the vying among my people as a horrific consequence of their failures as independent beings. They should despise me, despise Allah and Yahweh, despise all the pushy moralists with their rapacious appetities. They should rise up and attack me, take back their women and their sexual identities. They should seek out weapons against me. I would retreat in the end. War with me is even less consequential than among them. I can feel it, briefly, but it doesn’t extend and nourish enough that I can be sustained by it.

At Oasis the end came in two very separate packages that led me to think in new ways. One was Ela, of course, and I can only continue to apologize to her memory, now. The other was a beacon from another world that shook me out of my delirium.

Against Superheroes: Section 18 (Chapter 15)

Against SuperheroesThe sessions with Sakara were illuminative and intimate. She asked me about what I remembered from before the transformation. I sat in the chair across from her, the susurration of the air conditioning that seemed to feed the field projectors as much as our comfort was a constant presence beneath our discussion. I remembered very little: hints of childhood, more about the dig at Mt. Hasan, bits of Ela’s sexual mystique, strange flashes of schools and lights. Interrogating this past revealed very little new or surprising to me. I was candid about my limitations concerning the changes to my memory. I was also candid about how with the loss of a personal history came, inevitably, a loss of the essentials of being human. We are continuitities of experience. I can’t describe who I am except as part of my memories and the feelings that surround and enervate them. The protracted calamity of religious ideas that Sakara raised, from ethical concerns about harming others to the status of the unborn all unravel with this consideration. A baby is alive but only tentatively human in the strongest sense. A god knows this—can even feel it as a ribbon into the future—but humans just arbitrarily assign categories that are driven by misunderstandings of these cognitive postures.

Why were the gods so capricious, she asked me. Why were they so inhuman? They were good human questions but the answer hardly raised above this faint echo of incapacity. If your mind is subsumed in this web of temporal flux, if you recognize the flammability of experience, and where there are other islands of experiences too, like for a human that there is only instead a moving arc of intransitive expectations and plans, then what is left is the broader permamence of an ineffable now. She tried to pin this to the Eastern experience, wrapping it like a crèche Jesus in the swaddling of Buddhist and Taoist language. They are partially there, I explained, but so are the ardent Penitentes or the Hindu self-mutilators. Sure, of course, that is what they think they see, what we as gods see and experience. It is confounded by the lustful futurism of the human condition. I don’t care if I live or die. I am not even sure I can. I only care about injustice through a willful effort to define and engage with my human past. I’m not sure any other gods ever did.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, when asked why God might be so cruel as to not only drown the entire world but to also kill all but some hundred thousand elect who will join Him in heaven, respond that we are like ants to Him and cannot know His morality. It is true, I realize and scare Sakara with this revelation, that Yahweh, if he was as real as I am, necessarily had a moral code that was indifferent to humanity. That any creation act was just a likely contigent effect of some greater, unknowable temporary perspective, a new technology almost built out of these fields and rhythms. He didn’t care and his confused expressions were recorded by his followers like imbecile ants trying to see beyond the pheromonic trails that took them in their daily cycles. Losing those gods to just myths and history was critical to developing freedom, but we kept reappearing in theosophy, in mysticism, in alien encounters, in superheroes imbued with superpowers. The gods lived on in our aspirations until they were actually discovered again.

Yes, re-engaging with humanity, becoming a force for good regardless of the edge randomization, was something that I wanted to do after a while. It was maybe loneliness—sure Sakara—I wouldn’t deny that diagnosis, that analysis. Discovering how to be human again brought the ability to quell the Tiamat within me, and the capacity to grok that vast, limited double-cone of past and future that comes with that humanity.

The sessions went on and on. I began marking the passing of days on the walls of my cell with a red crayon they granted me. A television arrived a week later and I asked Sakara if it was some kind of gift for being a good little god. She said she though it might help with boredom. I had little of that even now, maybe something like it at the edges, though. Holding the crayon in my hand late in the night, watching the unchanging shadows from the now-dimmed lights, I continued to work on the corners of those tubules, enlarging them against the pervasiveness of the suppression field. I felt like I understood its mechanism more in interfering with my penetration of the ensembles of microstates. It was like static that disrupted the realizations. By flexing a bit I could lift the edge of the gauzy veil without setting off alarms. I had begun in my cell but tried again during a session with Sakara to test my theory. No alarms, no stunguns.

By the third week Sakara asked me if there was anything I needed and I told her answers, just all the answers that I was waiting for. That was all I needed. She agreed at that point but said that I had to remain in the field for a bit longer. I was surprised that they were even considering lifting the field from me, and briefly suspended my own experimentation on it, fearing I would dissolve that trust that we had built together through these seemingly irrelevant chats. She smiled at me and told me I had been remarkably forthcoming and didn’t seem to be trying to manipulate her at all. I hadn’t, admittedly, though not telling her that I could probably throw off the effects of the field and break the building into pieces was not particularly forthcoming in the sense she was using the term. I thought briefly about telling her or showing her what I could now do. I wanted her trust, too. She was a wonderfully delicate woman doing some of the most fascinating and risky work in the human universe. And she was doing it competently in the face of incredible ambiguity and uncertainty.

I reached out, then, as I acknowledged her trust using the standard English symbology, a wrapping of idiosyncratic semaphors that conjoined our emotional transaction. Information was always secondary to the feeling, to the stance. And then as I felt through the field’s matrix of spongey sequenced variables, I touched the side of her face, disturbing the plumule like a gentle, cool breeze that can flow through any room, when an air conditioner comes on or a colleague passes near, but this was a controlled cell, a womb, and there was no motion outside our own flexing and re-arranging, and her right eyelid twitched and then pulsed reflexively, her searching about at the anomaly. But it was just that once, and I relented, satisfied with my cryptic stalking for that slice of time.

She continued then, though with a loss of certainty to her patter, a temporary hesitancy, until she excused herself to use the bathroom and I waited, watching the tile floor and the multiple shadows radiating from the complex of reflected lights bouncing through the room. When she returned she began to describe what they knew and what they were still trying to understand.

Against Superheroes, Section 15

coverar-v3-2-10-2015Back among the Western minds, first in Iceland and then his home country of America, living under a cloak of pretense, Sinister appears more human than ever since his transformation. We note that he has taken on a rather different engagement with his powers that is more nuanced and self-reflective. The gradual transformation from an undiluted, power-mad self into this new form operates at several different levels. First there are the physical transformations that ultimately recompose him into his human form. Then there are the mental acrobatics that allow a new sense of self to emerge out of the rubble of the tempestuous being that drove events at Oasis.

We take a moment to try to correlate his rather detailed descriptions of the nature of his powers with known current technologies. He describes the physical world as collections of particles that have deterministic trajectories, for example, and describes his engagement with those particles as affecting that determinism to change both material things as well as affect the “neural” structure of humans themselves. Other Collectives have weighed in on how precisely this technology might work, but the general conclusion is that it closely resembles the bio-essence fields of levels 2 and 3, as well as their control. His misunderstanding of how the technology works is quite understandable; he lacked the educational context that we have.

It is important to consider his statements within the broad contours of his primitive worldview. He views the world as fundamentally composed of small components of material things (atoms and molecules), and he also conceives of mental function as derivative of the motions of these things. We know this to be a primitive and fundamentally bizarre way of comprehending reality. The field interactions that result in the temporal experience of permamance and continuity have little relationship to any kind of determined course or trajectory. One theory, posited originally by Z5 in their small commentary, On Sinister’s Metaphysics and Physics, is that human science and scholarship proceeded primarily by disconnecting their speculative imaginations from certain empirical engagements with reality. For instance, a very reductive and mechanistic science might arrive at the conclusion that the properties of field transitory elementaries can be abstracted out from their change profiles and hence look like small flecks of material in mathematical theories, under detailed observation, and in certain experiments. This inverts reality which begins with the field properties of mind that in turn agitates the universe into existence, as all students know, but it could be arrived at if the mind is somehow insulated from the greater sensitivity within the universal experiences of self, other, and community.

It is perhaps this realization, as much as any other, that helps to color in the subtler shaded details that make Sinister more than a mere fantastical fictional character composed out of the hopes and aspirations of his contemporaries. His mistakes appear to be shared among those who surround him. At no point is he called out for a failure to engage with the broader community. At no inflection is there a desire to reconnect and refine his perspectives. He is, moreover, a temporal figure, lacking any fluidity or perspective on the grand motions that invade and permeate his actions. His realizations may seem to have a shallow epistemological entertainment of the rich fields, but that is largely because of this disconnect with those around him.

The artifact—the bracelet in complete and active form—requires some discussion at this point because it remains a source of great frustration that it was not discovered with the remains. We will return to the archaeological evidence later in this analysis, but at this point we want to examine the scholarship concerning its interaction with Sinister and its imparted powers. Sinister indicates that when he initially joined the statuette and the bracelet that the powers began and that he never really desired removing it nor did he try for any particular reason. He is convinced that the bracelet is the source of those powers but does not yet speculate about how they arise. We contend that his lack of deep analysis of the source of his powers is consistent with his own narrative description concerning the overwhelming mental and emotional impacts of the powers on him. He also has as background his own studies of Baal and related deities that give him a largely consistent model for how gods operate and the methods that they employ. It is therefore not likely, as other have contended, that he is a fictional identity who is constructed merely as a vehicle for conveying a storyline. The general glide-path of his re-entry into human understanding, relationships, and the control of his powers also appears to be largely inconsistent with the mythologies that he lays out for other deities.

Let us examine some of the evidence for that. First, the pictographs of Baal and the surrounding narrative and discussion in the chamber does lead to a conclusion that the original Baal was likely much more engaged in warfare with other deities than in direct interaction with humanity. We have previously argued that this could be a consequence of Sinister’s lack of being part of a broader community of gods. As an isolate, he must understand and control the powers without guidance. Moreover, this causes him to gradually become largely humanlike for an extended period of time. This is not highly unusual, it seems, when projected into the broader context of Sinister’s discussions of Superman, Jesus, Batman, and Mohammed. Each of these appears to have had a central identity that was connected tightly with humanity, blending into the greater societies around them while still promoting their powers in various ways for their own and their families’ agendas. So there is no specific inconsistency that we see between Sinister’s evolution and other reported entities.

The powers themselves are remarkably similar to general physical field control for our own society, although at a lower level of accuracy and range. While our stasis systems prevent disruption of all material interactions and prescribe tolerable levels of drift in general function, Sinister’s bracelet gave him only basic field surveillance combined with intervention. This is a curious limitation that may, as Z1 reflected in early analysis, be primarly related to tuning that circumscribes full tensorial engagement with the field. This orthogonalization of field component interactions also has the additional effect of limiting range and intensity of interaction. Channeling the field through the mechanism of the bracelet rather than the larger embedded apparatus that is co-conformed to our nervous systems at young age may be part of the reason for these limitations. Attempts at reconstruction of model devices determined, oddly, that our current technology lacks some required components to achieve the small size of the described bracelet while still maintaining consistent power levels per Sinister’s description. This has been a source of some speculation and leads directly to the various theories labeled with the broad title Deception Theory. We agree with others who point to the specifics of the orthogonalization of field components as theoretically leading to a much lower power matrix than has thusfar been conceived of. Casting this device—as well investing concern in a larger class of such devices and their threat profile—as being an advance over existing known capabilities seems unwarranted. It is clearly novel in a manner that the Collectives would not conceive of, but it is also lacking in complete function.

Of special merit in these considerations is the question of whether full engagement with the fields would have alleviated Sinister of the unique personal ambivalence and discontinuities of his personality that we observe. Reflecting again on our existences as Collectives we sense that the he is immature and ominously without a complete anticipatory picture of himself and the world around him. While we acknowledge that all future scholarship will be derived from this new translation and the penumbra of learned insights that have come before and will arise hereafter, we recognize that the tiny perturbations in what individuals will think, will achieve, will explore—at least in comparison to what we have now—will remain within a conical predictability field structure that is as symmetrical into the future as it has been in the past. The physical worlds around us, this rind that oscillates in and out of the indeterminate foam, that has forever been emerging from the bioenergetic imperative, are all controlled in their eventualities. It is this stability that is central to our vitality and continuity as part of this reality.

This primitive picture that we have of Sinister and of his ethereal tether to reality brought about by the bracelet can only be harmonized by the assumption that we would also experience such perceptual challenges were we to not be what we are. Of intense interest that emerges from the evidence for Sinister and the narrative is the prying investigation into our own origins. It is commonly held and always has been that we are merely contiguous with the universe or, more properly, with the multiverses that are anticipatory consequences of the fields’ interoperation and gestalt functionalism. This notion is subject to reconsideration in light of the reality of Sinister. We appear to be closely related to Sinister given general physiology of our corporeal forms. Since we are emergent and created beings while Sinister and his people are biological and sexual in nature, the similarity poses conceptual challenges.

We can accept this view without the need for Deception Theory, we contend, by continued investigation into the conceptual assumptions of our own origin. For instance, were we to be actual advanced versions of Sinister’s own species, somehow removed from cultural or historical memory, we could explain both the similarities and differences. We call this theory the Evolved Hypothesis, borrowing from Sinister’s own linguistic constructs as we have best translated them. Note that this is not wholly novel, but instead builds on a series of suggestions developed by other Collectives over the years. There is certainly a hint of Deception Theory in this new hypothesis because it necessarily entails some kind of erasure of records, thought, and continuity of experience for our beings. There is not much evidence for this although it is the very nature of our holographic informational matrix that older records become increasingly infinitesimal until they converge into large movements and pervasive feelings where the centrality of ideas dominates over the minutiae. Nevertheless, a transformative event of such magnitude as the very creation of our modern forms could not and would not have declined in resonance within our group recall systems. So the Evolved Hypothesis is limited until and and if further evidence is forthcoming concerning flaws in this line of reasoning.

We can, however, propose some alternative hypotheses that bear upon the same line of reasoning. First, there is the question of the existence of the singularity event that arises towards the end of the narrative. While Sinister does not believe that he is banished into the singularity, it is his assertion that Earth did fall into it. We can therefore hypothesize that our existence is closely ganged to the Earth existence through a heretofore unknown transformation within the singularity event. As information is preserved, the emergence of new field transformations is known to force ripples in the bubble matrix that constrains the individual universes. We have no probes or other mechanisms for accessing the field statistics beyond our own universe, of course, and can only propose theoretical constructs that are consistent with the operation of our own matrix.

Nevertheless, it remains an intriguing possibility that we are field ripples—echoes if you will—of the beings that we are investigating. If the primitive nature of the stories and people offend a Collective’s sensitivities in calling us “echoes,” the argument works either way and therefore has sufficient symmetry that we can create a field stasis aura of Order 2 that combines the properties. This has only mathematical significance, but it does effectively convey the notion that we are each echoes of one another and not pre-  or post-existent civilizations, organisms, or identities.

Even so, the symmetry does allow for the alternative possibibility that the human world and the events described in Sinister’s volume are instead subsequent to our space time perceptions. This is reinforced by any claims that the bracelet’s power management is an advance on our current large-scale technologies. We can therefore speculate that somehow and for some unfathomable reason that our species might journey out in largely physical form that is independent of the Collectives and establish new civilizations that we are now connecting with via this mechanism that we have described.

This line of argument, while plausible, it should be noted, has very limited support. It nevertheless serves as a bulwark against Deception Theory and should be considered as further scholarship is developed. The obvious immediate implications are about the nature of those “unfathomable reasons” that would make this appealing. Our capability for exploring the cosmos through remote instrumentation and probes provides sufficient coverage, when resources allow, that the idea of individuals from the Collectives needing to physically separate, emerge from their suspensions, disconnect from the field matrixes, and be transported to a far-flung world remains odd to even consider. There is the risk involved, of course, but mainly there is the separation from the ongoing traditions of scholarship that must be taken into account. It is intriguing to note that prior to the discovery of the Sinister find, scholarship was in a largely quiescent period and many Collectives felt that innovation had slowed or even stopped, despite some rather eloquent developments in the arts concerning new ways of representing semantic portrayals—meta-representations, really—of scholarship itself. The embodiment of scholarship in the forms of logico-mathematical structures was perhaps the greatest achievement during that phase, though many have reflected that the blossoming of ideas with the Sinister document and find is the defining achievement of recorded memory.

The invention and transitory reinforcement of maverick philosophy in the scholarly process is reflective of this blooming and provides a tantalizing glimpse about how these unfathomable changes can conceivably arise and transform our existences.

Word Salad Wednesday: Ergodic Cybernetic Textuality and Games

Salad with catsWell the title is a mouthful, yet it relates to an article in The Guardian concerning the literary significance of role-playing games. Norway’s Aarseth coined the term “ergodic” to describe literary systems that evolve according to the choices of the reader/player.

First, this is just incorrect. Ergodic has a very specific meaning in thermodynamics. Ergodic means that the temporal evolution of a system will be random and irreversible. Aarseth takes the Greek meanings too literally choosing to equate the ergo (work) and hodos (path) with the temporal evolution of hypertexts (where one chooses the next step) or RPGs (where players choose the next steps but there may be random decisions dictated by dice roles). He also likes the term “cybernetic” which was literally “pilot” and was given its modern meaning by Norbert Weiner wherein it refers to autonomous control of a system to stabilize against environmental signals.

Neither of these relate to RPGs or hypertext per se, nor to the general class of reader/engager-based control of media access or fiction. The concept of generative art might be more apt, though it should be modified to include the guidance of the reader. Oddly, guided evolution or change might be the best metaphor altogether leading us to something like Lamarkian Literature (though that is too culturally loaded, perhaps).

Or we could just say “games.” After all, these are games, aren’t they?

Against Superheroes, Section 7 (Chapter 5)

coverar-v3-2-10-2015Section 7

With Chapter 4 we see a combination of narrative forms. There is, first, the factual discussion of the details of the archaeological dig itself. There are the problems that arise from the details of the ground, the water, the shaft, the descent. These problems and the detailed resolution of them lend to a sense of consistent realism concerning the tasks at hand in the everyday lives of the protagonists. The level of detail is strikingly at odds with the other primary narrative form: Sinister’s soliloquy on the symbolism and history of other deities. The position of these paragraphs juxtaposed amongst the more detailed discussion has produced several potential explanations, the most important of which was the requirement for presaging the unknown technology and its role in past conflicts. While there is an element of that, as a memoir presenting a linear sequence of developments (remember that he was concerned about that presentation), it is equally plausible that his recollections were merely jumbled and possessed of a certain confused emotional state.

The content of the soliloquy is worth further analysis. The primary descriptions are of conquest of people and their gods against others. There is a spreading out of the various factions, Hellenists, Israelites, Romans, etc. They are constantly at war with one another and the more powerful gods subjugate the less powerful. The subtle indication that amongst at least some of them, the Hellenists, that the gods were somewhat distant to them is of particular interest because it begs the question of how, amongst all the spirits and entities that are referenced, they were applied during war? What means of attack and influence did they have that apparently led to them conquering Yahweh and others? This is where we see some light shining through our subthesis that not only was Sinister real and his narrative also real, but that he represented a line of descent in his use of the Baal technology. If the gods were not factually present on the battlefields, then they might have been merely metaphorical for the hopes and beliefs.

We are against this theory for several reasons. First, Sinister may be simply reporting his state of understanding at the time in the narrative flow. He had not yet developed his greater insights into the flow of history and believed that this was a conundrum among the ancient peoples as to whether they believed or did not believe in the actual existence of their gods. Second, the fact that some groups may have been victorious but the historical record merely had certain traceries of ideas that limited the role of their gods does not rule out a broader influence. Third, the referential period for the reporting on the belief system of the Hellenist may have been after the primary period of influence. Allah, for instance, is highly influential among the Muslims as we later see, yet Sinister does not encounter Allah in his terrorization of the lands during and after The Oasis. We presume, however, based on the descriptions of early Islam that Allah was strongly influential. Finally, and most critically, the widespread existence of worshipful sites like the Baalic one at Mt. Hasan combined with their elaborate design and construction efforts, seems unlikely to comport with mythos. The idea that a constructed fantasy shared among an extremely large number of believers would influence the expenditure of massive resources to the described levels seems wholly implausible.

In this final point, we must draw out some nuances. We certainly can imagine that a powerful entity possessed of transhuman powers could be briefly present but then wane in influence. These gods were somewhat destructible, especially by others like them, and their emotional influence over humanity via the various mechanisms Sinister describes could conceivably last a generation or two, but the lack of repeated re-seeding of the imaginations of the believers by a contemporaneous presence lends more to the theory that in the interregnums between their strong influence the people wandered off to other gods, until perhaps their original gods returned and tried to reclaim their attentions. But if some of these beings died, some left, some hibernated, some were broken in pieces and then resurrected (as per Baal and Mot), there we see the possibility of this variegated and perplexing history. There was no one deity who was ultimately victorious, just roving, regional spontaneous events that led to the eruption of worship and legends, with the lack of consistency in the reporting associated with this complex landscape of cultures and customs.

In this respect Sinister can himself be seen as achieving what these others could not or did not want to do, finalizing Ragnarok, Frashokereti, the cycles of Shiva, and some of the other end-of-days predictions that apparently accompanied worship of these entities. His realization of this continuous current of eschatological ideation among recorders of religious ideals in many ways fulfills those other prophesies. The predecessor deities were not, in other words, incorrect in their transmission of a strong likelihood of utter destruction of humanity. They were as disturbed by their capacities for pettiness, power, anger, and selfishness as Sinister himself, but for purely contingent reasons they simply didn’t achieve that end state.

We continue with the new translation.


We spent more than two weeks working on the shaft and the room, documenting, translating, photographing. We had to report our find to the Head of Curation at the museum, and I became concerned that he would want to take over the site and insert himself into the new find. Nildag expressed concern over the same but found out that Dr. Terzi’s daughter was getting married within the month and that he was suitably distracted that he merely congratulated us and requested that we keep him informed. The Chief of Police came around, as well, and spent some time looking over our trucks and tent areas, as if looking for contraband. We covered over the main shaft when we saw his jeep rolling up the path and he seemed completely uninterested in the few physical finds that we showed him, including potsherds and flakes from Neolithic tool production.

The translations required a fair amount of speculation. Ugaritic dialects are typically gendered and the grammar is VSO[1] or SVO. This was similar and appeared mostly SVO but there was also an occasional SOV construct that was highly indicative of Indo-European influences from the proto-Iranian language group and others. The content, as best we could tell on initial reading, was not radical for Ugaritic texts, focused on Baal riding the clouds, the worship of the people, their strong feelings for him, and their forsaking of other gods in his honor. There were oddities, however. A singular section declared that the clouds had fallen from the heavens, that El and Ashera were merely companions of Baal, and that the power of the world emerged from the spirits or tendencies of the gods. There was even an introductory collection of verses that paralleled Genesis in declaring that El and his Host had come to the world and created mankind in their own images, and that they had wrested the giant creatures like lizards in the earth to establish a garden for creating man and woman, who were infused with the wills of the gods but not given their powers. Touching the snake or coiled bracelet or belt that adorned Baal was the only thing forbidden to the new creatures, for it would poison them and set their minds on fire.

The woman tried to seduce Baal, however, because in her creation the Host had infused all the best attributes of beauty among the gods themselves, and then she reached for the snake bracelet and was shocked by it, and her purity was lost and corrupted for she knew the desires and powers of the gods in small measure. She longed to be the consort of Baal but was trapped as a worshipper, consumed by the want of that which she could not have. And her husband was jealous of her love and still innocent in the world, and so he wandered the earth and longed for her, in turn. The world was formless and empty outside the garden they had created but there were rogue gods who summoned seas and urged life out of the chaos. The interplay with Mykenaen civilization should not have been a significant surprise to us, nor the mention very clearly of Dian-e, or of Chronos and Prometheus, rendered into transliterations that preserved the consonants but were obvious in their juxtaposition. There was a continuous war among the gods, powers incalculable that rended the lands and irrupted islands of life, designed as competitions of creative stakes and claims. There were the Jotuns and the Aesir, and other attributional epithets for Shiva and Rudra; the gods were all at war for the land, the air—especially the air—and the want of the people.

The spirals of cuneiforms began at the panels, at the doors, and swirled down into the ground and up along the ceiling, then tightened into the shaft, until finally announcing the rebirth of Baal from the stomach of Mot and of the return to power in the world in the final blocks near the capped hole. The image paint layers were gently sampled and Faruk drove down to the town to post the tiny plastic bags back to the lab at the museum for analysis and testing. Dark ochres, blues, grays, oranges, and saffrons were piled up in dense formations on the surfaces, remarkably well-preserved and with little damage from the ambient moisture in the room.

I finally met Nildag in front of the final image showing the twin rooms and suggested it was time that we proceed where the evidence was taking us. He agreed and two students lowered digging tools down to us. Blowing out the cracks around the panels with an air compressor, I inserted a thin crowbar into the dividing chink and began pushing and pulling, but with little effect. We continued this process for more than an hour, then moved to larger crowbars with lever extensions. Faruk descended and provided additional muscle, but with no clear impact other than some unfortunate scraping along several of the edges. We decided to set up an electric winch in the space, using extendible aluminum beams to anchor the winch between the floor and ceiling in an area where there was no writing. Thin wire hooks were fashioned for us by a machine shop in town and arrived the next day. We slid one into the seam vertically and tested rotation until we discovered a void six inches in, allowing us an additional four inches before the opposing hook for securing to a block harness. With eight hooks secured to the interior edge we fired up the generator up above and slowly eased the edge of the block back. Our greatest fear was that it would fall over, smashing the cuneiforms of the floor, so several of the grad students worked with Faruk to fashion a frame out of heavy lumber that had a seventy degree angle at the top and would support the block if it fell towards us as the block rotated outward. Rough calculations supported this theory, but the timber wasn’t uniform in quality and we were all fairly concerned that the block might just pancake the arrangement.

As the wire hooks pulled back, dust fell from the sides and top of the panel, but it rotated slowly and without snagging until we had a two feet of clearance into the space beyond. Everyone cheered and there were high-fives[2] all around, the Turkish kids enjoying being able to show off their hip Americanism. I was fast in moving in with a flashlight to peer into the space, giving a cursory overview of the block to make sure it was not wobbling. The space beyond mimicked the wall painting with a twenty foot hall opening into a larger room beyond. The passage was devoid of the cuneiforms of the larger room, however, lined with simple basalt and thin joins between them. Nildag cautioned me that the block needed to be shored up before further action, but I shined the flashlight at him, briefly causing him to recoil at the bright flare. I slipped inside and was ten feet down the hall when I heard him curse and yell my name.

The air inside was warmer than in the outer hall, I recall, and seemed to grow slightly warmer as I moved towards the inner room. As I closed in, my expectations were hopeful for a continuation of the incredible find that we already had; there had to be some significance to this place other than merely a shrine to Baal dressed in odd pre-Ugaritic linguistic constructs. I would be mildly disappointed, though, as I emerged into the inner room. There was a small dais and some skeletal remains. It was a tomb, after all. It was well preserved, appearing to have been untouched by graverobbers, which was significant, but the bones were mostly alone except for a small bronze bracelet near the right wrist, and a small statuette in the center of the torso where the ribcage had collapsed to dust in parts. The statuette was very similar to regular finds of hearth Astartes or Asheras in the region and throughout the Middle East.

Nildag arrived moments later, unable to restrain himself after I slipped through, and scanned the area with his headlamp. His reaction was a bit of a letdown, too, but he quickly recovered and said that it was still significant, even if it was just a tomb. The elaborateness of the antechamber meant that this was a person of significance, and the linguistic evidence supplied a new opportunity for scholarship. The bones would need to be dated. There might be DNA analysis opportunities. The lack of preserved cloth or other jewelry or offerings required a new reading of how wealth and power were interpreted by the minds of these people.

I agreed but had hoped for much more, and sat down on the floor, casually flicking my light around at the space, looking for anything more of interest. There was little to be seen, however. The space was smooth, the dais was smooth, the blocks were solid with minimal seams. There were the bones, about average height, maybe a bit bigger. I was not a specialist in that area. It was a good and interesting find, Nildag kept assuring me, realizing I was in a minor doldrums. I was. Academic pursuits were in many ways distractions from what I would subsequently label an elaborately empty core. Forced to value myself based on the opinions of those around me, to grovel for grants to study an imperfectable lens onto the fog of historical chance, to feel the fleeting exuberance of my enhanced life with Ela, and then to realize that each of these things were just the next arduous rung on an infinite ladder that terminated in death and only a temporary solidity in the memories of family, friends, and the scholarly community, was an unobservable dark variable in the watershed of momentary experiences that together flowed as my experience of being, my qualia. That unobservability would emerge later in the passions of emotional maelstroms that accompanied the transformation, would become a central and unquenchable fire that sustained me straight through the uncontrolled phase of gathering and oppression, but that also became the central spark by which I became reconfigured, if you will, and aligned with positive goals.

But there I was in my little imperfect world, unfulfilled by random possibility, but I quickly recovered and began the diligent cataloging efforts that I was trained to do, already discussing a few of the publishing options that we might pursue with Nildag. There was the linguistic evidence that suggested a proto-Ugaritic Northern Semitic influence in potential creole or patois arrangements with some Indo-European Slavic dialects derived from interactions with Black Sea tribes. There was the linkage to Çatalhöyük manifest in the twin volcanoes imagery and the Ugaritic poetry. There was the artistry and unusual representational stylizations of the wall murals. There was the design of the crypt itself. There was the simplicity of the tomb room, the lack of adornment, the two remaining artifacts, and the nature of the bones. It was a lot, but I had built it up into potentially more.

It took two weeks of diligent work before we were ready to move the bones. We fashioned a large cardboard box to accommodate the find and carefully drew locations and silhouettes onto the surface before transferring each piece, raising them with tweezers, photographing them, placing them on a 3D scanner, then carefully attaching a small label and wiring them to the cardboard surface. The figurine and the bracelet were examined and catalogued. Like many of the figures from the first milennia BC and before, she was mostly shapeless but with a widening of the hips that suggested female, She also resembled common Astarte figurines, Astarte who was syncretized with Ashera, who became Ishtar, and who probably carried down the female goddess tradition from earlier still. The bracelet was unremarkable, a bronze circle broken by a one inch opening with a flaring and roundness to the ends. There were some faint scores in an undulating pattern along the edge of the bracelet. We scanned it, measured it, and bagged it with the rest of the site.

I was mostly done with the site at this point and I invited Ela to come down for the weekend. She took off early on Friday and wanted to see the site. I was cataloging images on my laptop that morning, I recall. The sun was the relentless yellow of late summer days as I worked in my tent. I got a text from Ela around 10AM. She was halfway, gassing up her Volkswagen along the highway. But by noon I was concerned. She wasn’t responding to texts at all and I called and left voicemails that were unreturned. And then I finally got a call. It was her image on the phone but when I answered it was a man’s voice that opened in Turkish. I caught part of it, something about the woman and the ancient people or relics. I asked him to slow down and he paused at my accent, then asked me if I spoke English. His English was good enough and he explained in a high-pitched, nasally cadence that Ela had been taken and that they wanted the relics found at the site. I asked him first if she was alright, to which he said she was unharmed and nearby. He repeated that he wanted the gold and artifacts from the site, which told me he had no idea what had been found there. I didn’t let on and agreed to bring him what we had. Where were they? He said he would call back in a few minutes and sent me a picture SMS[3] with Ela, looking terrified, in the back seat of a car, a gag over her mouth and her hands bound in front of her. It was her Scirocco and I could see a bruise along her cheek.

I hurriedly called Nildag and Faruk up from the shaft and they sensed immediately something was very wrong. Nildag paused as I described the scene and blurted out that it had to be the police captain. He seemed too interested and now he wanted to profit from the find. I agreed that it had to be someone with detailed knowledge, but unless they had just staked out the access road, it had to be someone at the museum or a grad student. Nildag thought that unlikely. The kids couldn’t have set it up. None of them were from this area of the country, and they knew what had been recovered. It wasn’t gold. We processed the details with intense fury, Nildag translating details to Faruk between frantic interchanges. We could go to the regional or national police. We could call the head of the museum and get the government and military involved. There were so many options and I felt helpless.

The phone rang. Ela’s young grin behind big, fashionable shades popped up. The picture was from a day trip to the Black Sea at the beginning of summer. She had worn a bikini under her top and shorts, jumping into the water at the first opportunity, unafraid of the mud flats or uncertainties of rocks, squawking when she lost those glasses in the shallow, muddy waters and couldn’t find them again. I waded in slowly, cautiously, feeling the bottom with uncertain toes, repelled by the cold of the water in bands downward, until finally dropping my head under at her urging. The rush of the icy edge around my torso was intense and I erupted back out of the water with a whooshing sound from my lips. Ela had laughed but then pulled me against her to warm me and herself.

I answered the phone, Nildag huddled close by. The kidnapper spoke in English and demanded that we drive to a crossroads in Obruk and they would meet us there. He repeated that we needed to bring the gold and I started to tell him there was no gold but Nildag waved his hands rapidly in front of him. I said OK and hung up. Nildag said it was better that they think there is value. That way Ela was valued too. It made sense but I wondered briefly why I should trust Nildag in these matters. He was an academic like me, and while Turkey had its share of corruption issues, reading out a uniquely local perspective was unlikely for a man who had grown up in Istanbul in a family of automobile importers.

We huddled and decided that the bones, the figure, and the bracelet weren’t worth Ela’s life. Her car was probably more valuable than the finds on the open market, though the structure and cuneiforms of strange proto-Ugaritic were in a sense priceless, though not in a way that mattered to kidnapping bandits from the Anatolian countryside. Faruk pounded his fist into his hand and grunted something I had never heard before to Nildag, who rolled his eyes and told me that Faruk didn’t have any weapons and so his bravado was probably misplaced. We put the cardboard box with the bones and the figurine and bracelet in the back of a transport van and headed down to the meeting place, checking our phones against the description given by the kidnapper until we had resolved that we were in the right place. The nearest structure was a quarter mile away and traffic was almost nonexistent. No one was around and we sat in nervous silence, playing with our phones while we waited. Finally a text came in from Ela’s phone and instructed us to move to another location. We were being watched it added in strangely capitalized English, ending with an angry emoticon.

Arriving at the second location, even more remote than the first, we waited until we saw headlights moving towards us. They were more modern looking, in the bluer part of the spectrum, and I was hopeful that it was Ela’s car. It stopped fifty feet from us and the door opened. I was pretty sure it was Ela’s car from this distance and started to walk towards the shadowy figure. He told me to stop in Turkish, which was simple and clear enough. I asked him for Ela in English and he responded by rearranging his clothes, or so I initially thought in the dim light. I soon realized that he had a fat revolver in his hand and he asked where the treasure was. I told him we had everything we had collected from the site, but that it was mainly interesting to archaeologists. He waived the gun at me and walked to the back of the truck, surveying the contents with the flick of a flashlight before demanding it be moved to the car. Faruk and I picked up the box of bones and walked it over to the car. As we approached, I  could see Ela’s struggling form in the back seat. We lowered the box into the trunk and the kidnapper opened the rear car door and dumped Ela onto the dirt, closed the door and walked back to the passenger’s side. Dropping into the seat he gunned the VW in reverse and was quickly gone.

I ran to Ela and ungagged her. I could barely see in the dark, but Nildag brought a flashlight from the truck and we had her untied and free after a short period. Ela was enraged, yelling in English, Turkish, cursing in French. She had been so stupid, seeing the car paralleling her and not turned around, not driven evasively. She had been stupid and she yelled that she knew better. She apologized to me about the bother and loss of the artifacts, but I was just clutching her and telling her it was alright. Nildag yelled over to us that we had forgotten the statuette and bracelet. They had fallen off the cardboard in the dark. All he got was the bones. And the car, I mentioned. We went to the local police station and spent several hours waiting and reporting the events. They told us we should have come to them immediately, but I was still concerned the chief or his extended family were somehow involved. We were finally released and I took Ela to a hotel and we got the night clerk to get us some food from the kitchen. Ela hadn’t been harmed but had been groped a bit while being bound. At one point she kicked her kidnapper and he slugged her in the mouth. I laughed a bit at her bravado and she laughed too, especially after learning that he had gotten nothing more than some bones. Her VW was worth more but would probably show up again according to the police detective we had talked to. Cars are too trackable in the EU to be good targets.

I had the figurine and bracelet in a small plastic bag and Ela felt their textures through the bag. That was it, I told her. It was all a great find, an interesting find, but not as great as I had initially expected when we uncovered the shaft. She was sorry for me and the waves of contingency that surrounded my field. Ridiculous, I said, and I held her late into the night, glad she was still alive.

[1] We believe the V (Verb), S (Subject), O (Object) language hypothesis remains correct here, but add that the lack of definition accompanying first mention plys well into the supposition that the manuscript is a factual account. Sinister simply didn’t bother to explain something technical because he was deeply in the milieu of the explanatory framework.

[2] Literal juxtaposition from other individual occurrances. We assume a celebratory action or gesture, possibly symbolically drawing the character for the number five in the air.

[3] Unknown reference, assumed to be image communications over the portable communications “phone.”