You Know You are doing something right when…

…Hollywood steals your ideas!

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I wrote the novel “The Watch” in 2016 after many decades of research into some of the darker corners of the origins of World War II. The novel explored the legend of the Spear of Destiny, from its moment of creation to its role in the occult influences on the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. Some of the stranger ‘high technology’ projects of the Nazi regime were closely related to the occult interests of Hitler and Himmler, “Die Glocke,” the Bell, was one of them.

In the novel I create a cave system in Antarctica where Nazi explorers discover a portal to an alternate universe. This is a place where time runs much, much slower than in our world. The Nazis take advantage of this to create a base in Antarctica from which they begin to emerge in 2032 – to once again attempt to establish their vision of a new world order.

In Chapter 53 of the The Watch I describe the discovery of the portal to the alternate universe. It is deep within a cave system.

After The Watch was published, several Hollywood agents and producers asked for copies of the book. One was a well-known producer for Netflix. On Netflix today you will find a movie about a cave system somewhere in the American desert where explorers find….you guessed it …a portal to an alternative Universe where time runs much slower than in ours.

Coincidence? No, that’s not plausible.

In the 1970s I wrote a newspaper feature about the descendants of slaves who still lived in the slave cabins of their ancestors on a Waynesboro, Ga. Plantation. I sent the story and photographs to an editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He promptly sent a reporter to a similar plantation in Alabama. His story won a Pulitzer prize.

In 1980 I wrote a science fiction story about the creation of a computer system using a massive organic brain. The brain’s first project was to gather images of faces from modern and ancient sources in order to create a program that could analyze facial features, an important element in the plot of the story. I sent the manuscript to Sci Fi magazines everywhere. It was never published (rightly so it was badly written). Later scientists posited the possibility of organic brain matter computers. Someone created a software program just like the one in my story – and called it facial recognition.

In 2010 I wrote a screenplay called “Faces” based on this science fiction story. In it I create a scene where the protagonist uses contact lenses in which micro-circuitry has been embedded. The lenses provide him with messages only he can see. A Hollywood producer sent the screenplay to Tom Cruise, who was filming “Valkyrie” in Germany at the time. Mr. Cruise did not pick up the screenplay. His next “Mission:Impossible” movie included scenes where he gets messages…you guessed…from contact lenses embedded with micro-circuitry. A little later ‘electronic’ contact lenses became a reality.

Am I pissed about this? No. There is always the possibility of independent co-invention. We see examples of it everywhere. Even so, I prefer to believe my creativity is being ripped off. At the very least – it would have been nice to have gotten a nod from Mr. Pulitzer, in the credits of Cruise’s movie, a mention in the back of a software manual…or a thank you note from those Hollywood agents or Netflix execs maybe…

The reality is that there is no ownership of ideas. You can’t copyright them. Rather than wingeing about being ripped off (is that what I am doing?) I would rather feel that creating original ideas that others use successfully is an indication that I am headed in the right direction. I would be upset if, after a life time of writing, nothing I had to say was worth stealing.

Sharkey & The Thunderjack

The Bahamas

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     There has always been the sea. It surrounds and nurtures each gem like island. It tempers the chill northern winds of winter and the humid heat waves of summer. Its currents bring tantalizing flotsam from distant and mysterious places far to the south. Its depths yield up bounties of food and sometimes treasure.  There are times when it tests a man’s mettle, tries his soul, and tempers both to produce a hardy breed of sailors who take pride in their power to live in harmony with the powers of the wind and waves. They are the Out Islanders. Here seamanship is the measure of a man. They each set out to sea in sturdy boats of horseflesh and heartpine, a prayer to the white man’s Lord on their lips – an incantation to Okolun, the ancient African God of the sea in their hearts. Born of the Yoruba in Nigeria, their religion became Haiti’s Voodoo,  Jamaica’s  Obeah – and here the Bahamas – Scratch. By any name, it is a powerful magic, the taproot of daily life that can shape the primeval forces of nature to make a man strong  – or to make him die.

            One day above all others is paramount in the demonstration of each man’s prowess under sail – August Race Day. This is the holiday weekend when sailors from each island of the Bahamas converge on a tiny cay off the East coast of Andros. Off the gently curving beach at Mangrove Cay they race their boats. The winner is the best sailor in the Bahamas. In the days before the race, the little community is alive with the excitement of preparation, the scheming of the crews and captains – the spell casting of the Scratchmakers.

            These are the men and women who keep alive the old traditions. They are said to have power over the winds and seas for long enough to help a captain win. The most powerful magic of all is that embodied in the bones of ancestors who were master sailors in their own time. Their bodies are often buried in ‘Banana Holes’ – deep natural pits in the island bedrock. As race day nears, the bones are resurrected and used in spell casting – then placed aboard the boats. The power of Scratch was not limited to the fortunetellers and spell makers – in the veins of some of the sailors runs the blood of ancient Yoruba priests. They and their ancestor sailors were men who had ‘Scratch’.

Sharkey & The Thunderjack tells the story of Eustace Whaley, leader of the community at Mangrove Cay at Andros Island in the Bahamas. He is acknowledged as the best of the Bahamian sailors, always a sure bet to win the August races, until, that is, the day he falls overboard and is savaged by a shark. His ‘Scratch’ is suddenly gone. Missing and arm and a leg, he is written off by the community. He retreats to a small island and for twenty years curses the Gods, the ocean, the community that shunned him.

And then…he decides to return.

The Sands of Phobos

A Cautionary Tale

Jack Rees

            Jake and Susan Lee huddled in the media room of their home in New Joplin. Neither could sleep. They were waiting.  Not for the cat five hurricane roaring in from the Arkansas coastline to blow over. The storms were getting to be old news. They both watched The Channel, hoping against hope that the screen would message them soon to say that their twins, Joshua and Samuel, were homeward bound. And that their four lives were not about to spiral into disaster.

            “I can’t sit here any longer.” Jake stood and walked to the central stair. “I’m going to check on the storm. Call me if you hear anything.”

            Susan smiled. It was a sad, half smile. He had come to know it well. He had spent every waking moment assuring her that the diabetes one was not her fault. It might have been a virus, there was no family history, no hint in her DNA. Yet Susan buried herself beneath a mantle of guilt. The cost of keeping her alive was soaking up every single credit they could earn. A new pancreas could have cured her overnight, but that was a cost only the Mega Rich could pay. They had hoped for a stem cell generated ‘faux pancreas’ in her abdominal cavity…but again Medical said they did not have the credits, it was for the Very Rich. As it was, Susan survived on seventy-five year old technology, an external computer that monitored her glucose and dispensed insulin.

            Jake stepped into the elevator in the center of their earth bag dome home. The floor above contained the living quarters and above that was the Grow Room. The house was just like thousands of others in New Joplin. All were dome homes mostly beneath the surface of the earth. The design was mandated after the insurance industry collapse, one cluster of powerful tornadoes too many throughout the mid-west, one catastrophic hurricane too many on the east coast. The Grow Room was where computers used an aeroponics system to produce basic vegetables and the host of medicinal herbs mandated by the Government. Artificial sunlight prolonged the growing cycle, except for the rare days weak sunlight would trickle through the transparent dome that crowned the home. Every home had a Grow Room and every householder was obligated to harvest and process the food and especially the medicinals. There were fines for failure to do so. It was irresponsible to become sick when preventive measures were available.

            The elevator stopped at a small observation platform at the crest of the dome. Jake could hear the roar of the wind and feel the vibration as the storm swept in from the south. He peered through the sheets of rain whipping over the surrounding countryside. Constant storms had stripped the Mid West’s earth bare except for grasses and small hardy shrubs. The air cleared between gusts of wind. The barren earth stretched for miles to the east. Somewhere, beyond the horizon, was the Mississippi. It was once a river, now more of an inland ocean. On its wasteland banks lived the poor and the hopelessly sick. They eked out an off-the grid life surviving on fish from the polluted waters and anything they could salvage from the ruins of the towns abandoned long ago by those with means.

            “Poor bastards!” Jake spoke quietly, a whisper hopefully unheard by the home sound system. He was startled as the sound system responded to the words. “Incoming video call for Mr. and Mrs. Lee…”  Jake returned to Susan. She was waiting, hands to her lips as if trying to hold back the fear of what might follow.

            “Sue, I’m sure the kids are fine, don’t think the worst ’till it happens!” They sat down on the couch in front of the media wall. It was already cycling through The Channel logo, boil water and air quality notices. The New Joplin Medical Center conference room faded from black. Both Jake and Sue gasped as they saw several men and women sitting at the table. Jake wrapped an arm around Susan, his chest tightening as he felt there was not enough air in the room. Their prayers for a quick message from a discharge nurse were not about to be answered.

            “The news is not good, Mr. and Mrs. Lee, but don’t be alarmed, we have a solution for you that can save Joshua and Samuel.” Jake felt Susan shrink and press into his body as she exhaled a low moan. Dr. Hernandez face was expressionless and Jake was surprised to see her in the company of others. In the past he had been sure she was an AI Android, perhaps even just a CGI.

            “I will explain the problem. Joshua and Samuel have been infected by a brain-eating amoeba, they must have been outside recently.”

            “Yes, they have. The temperature cooled to just below a hundred a few days ago. They went out to play in one of the local ponds.” Guilt started to fester in Jake’s stomach.

            “The source of the amoeba no doubt. No major damage has occurred yet. The amoeba has attacked their nervous systems. There is no damage to brain tissue. We can treat the problem, eradicate the infection and restore the nerve damage. Your boys will be completely healthy.”

            “Treat the problem? How?” Jake hugged Susan hard to his side. He could feel her silently sobbing.

            “Dr. Swenson here can create custom cells that are attracted to the amoeba, it’s called specific DNA signaling…anyway it means the cells seek out the amoeba and destroy them. One injection and both boys will be fine.”

            “It sounds awfully expensive.” Jake’s mind roiled with both hope and fear. Their two sons could be saved, but he and Susan could be separated and sent to Guest Worker Centers to pay off the debt. Many of the Rich were trapped by accident or illness that could not be paid with any amount of credits. The only solution was to refuse treatment, or spend months to years in Guest Worker Centers paying off the debt. In the old days they were called Labor Camps. Both he and Susan were caregivers in New Joplin’s main industry, one of the Retirement Centers for the ageing Very Rich. The work was bearable, made so by the occasional gifts of credits or luxury foods and medicines provided by Very Rich retirees in return for special services.

            The Guest Worker Centers were not so bearable. The few that returned had nightmare stories of six-hour work-days, forced recreation, re-education and exercise. The work was frightful. The ‘guests’ were used to process cadavers, human waste or the occasional animal. There were no wild animals left, other than exotic pets of the Very Rich. The Guest Workers would eat the occasional pony or dog, good meat compared to the usual daily fare in the Centers. Everything was processed by hand. Cadavers were de-boned for mineral recovery. Flesh was processed for oils, water and ‘recyclable protein.’ It was claimed that the factory grown ersatz red meat burgers in New Joplin’s Food Mart had a portion of ‘recyclable protein’ in them. A black joke surely. It was a fact that sanitized human waste was included in the mist blown nutrients fed through the city’s aeroponics Grow Room systems. The smell was undeniable.

            “There is a way for treatment to be provided at no cost.” The doctor’s voice broke through the Guest Worker Center nightmares. Both Jake and Susan sat forward, a glimmer of hope that the dark weight of the future could be lifted. “As you know, whenever treatment is rendered for the first time we are authorized to recover a DNA sample from every patient. When we entered the DNA data for your boys into the global database we received an alert from the IEA.”

            “IEA?” Jake already knew the answer, another glimmer of hope. He wanted the doctor to explain, to reassure Susan.

            “International Eugenics Agency, Mr. Lee. Their AI immediately authorized full treatment for Josh and Sam.”

            “Something good about their DNA?” Susan finally spoke, the hope, even relief in her voice was palpable.

            “Better than good, excellent. No indicators for future disease, every indication of longevity and superior physicality. Josh and Sam are exactly the kind of stock we need to produce future healthy and superior human beings.”

            Jake and Susan spared a glance at each other, relief already so evident in their faces.

            “You mention no cost. You mean nothing at all, no credits, no guest worker service? Nothing at all?”

            Dr. Hernandez motioned to a woman across the conference table. She was unusual for most ethnic types of the day, tall, blonde, very white skinned with bright blue eyes. Her features were sharp and angular, even stern. She smiled easily at Jake and Susan, her face starting to fill the wall-sized screen.

            “Mr. and Mrs. Lee, I am Ursula Hunter, a recruitment official for the IEA. We would like to bring Josh and Sam into the IEA development program. If you will sign an agreement with us to that effect, we will cover the cost of their current health needs. We will also cover their future healthcare costs.”

            Everyone had heard of the IEA’s ‘development program.’ No one knew for sure what it entailed, but the rumors ranged from simple collection of semen samples to the forced breeding of specially selected partners in places similar to Guest Worker Centers.

            “What exactly does that mean…’bringing them into the program’?” Susan did her best to disguise the tremor and the suspicion in her voice.

            Hunter smiled easily again and even managed a chuckle. “It doesn’t mean what you have probably heard. What we will do is work to see that Josh and Sam remain as healthy as possible in their future lives. They are both seventeen, academically gifted and – to that end – we would like to direct them in a way that will ensure careers and family lives that will benefit us all.”

            The view shifted to reveal the man sitting next to Hunter. He leaned forward, his unblinking gaze fixing on Jake. “This is where I can step in and help, Mr. Lee. I am Colonel McBride with OWSA, the Off World Service Agency. Your two boys are just the kind of guys we need in the service. There are a lot of wonderful opportunities for them. If you sign off with Hunter here, OWSA will get them into a university where they can train for any one of a dozen different careers off world.”

            Susan’s grip on Jake’s hand tightened. He pulled her a little closer. Everyone dreamed of an off world assignment. The credits were enormous, the food was amazing, healthcare was free and the work was easy depending upon where you worked. That was the good news. They both knew that the ‘offer’ in front of them meant that they were about to lose their children. They also knew that it was not an offer. They had little choice. The twins could die, or they could live while their parents spent decades in a Guest Worker Center.

            Hunter leaned back into view. “I would like to make one more suggestion that may help you to decide in our favor, Mr. and Mrs. Lee. It was your combined DNA that created these superior young men. You are not too old to have more children. If you agree, we will arrange for you to be exempted from the two-child restriction. We will arrange for Mrs. Lee to get a new pancreas. We will then move you both to a VR city in Colorado where you can get excellent healthcare and happily produce more children. As you can see we take the future of humanity very seriously. You and your offspring can play a very important role in rebuilding the coming race.”

            Jake squeezed Susan’s hand once more. This time it was a signal for caution. “Ms. Hunter, of course we will fully accept your offer. I am sure Josh and Sam will be thrilled at the prospect of off world careers.” He spoke carefully, hoping Susan would understand the new tone in his voice.

            Hunter’s expression changed, self-satisfaction oozing from a feint uptick in the corner of her mouth. “Very good. Your city attorney, Mr. Victor will process your agreement.”

            Victor’s face filled the screen. Each city had two attorneys, one for the Government and one for ‘the people’ as provided in the North American continental constitution. Victor smiled nervously as he operated controls on a console in front of him. “Please sit still, full face to the screen.” Jake and Susan sat upright. A green beam emerged from the center of the screen and scanned their faces. “Please sign, Mr. and Mrs. Lee.”

            Jake and Susan reached down to the arms of the sofa and placed their index fingers on a small pad.

            “Thank you, the document is signed and is now fully legal.”

            Hunter, McBride and Hernandez smiled as Victor left the room. “You will be hearing from us shortly. I suggest you start planning for your move to Colorado. Josh and Sam started their treatment several hours ago, so Dr. Hernandez here will have them on-screen in a few hours. Col. McBride will advise you later today on the off world assignments for Josh and Sam.” Hunter almost grinned as the screen went blank.

            “Careful!” Jake turned to Susan and whispered the word without moving his lips. Everyone suspected the sound and video systems in the dome homes. This was especially so just after a contract with Government. He then spoke normally. “Susan there is an awful lot of good to come out of this. Off world could mean NueLuna, one of the Moon settlements, maybe even one of the Mars colonies. And then there is your new pancreas, life in a VR city. Imagine it, better living in a secure city. No more caravans of the sick and poor from the wastelands begging for food and medicine.”

            Susan’s eyes were moist. She was on the verge of tears. “Yes, Jake, let’s do a search on the options.”

            Jake turned to the wall screen. “Search for careers on NueLuna, Moon Settlements and Mars Colonies.” The screen flashed white. The logo for GoogleGov faded in followed by a boolean search string.

            NueLuna was an artificial moon built in earth orbit at the L5 point. It was said the Mega Rich began planning the project and accumulating wealth to pay for it in 2020, shortly before the economic and climate collapse of the following decade. It was said to be heavenly. No images of life inside the planetoid were permitted. It fueled a massive service industry. The few remaining acres of arable land on Earth were used to grow organic vegetables and protected lamb, steer and cow herds. There was a steady traffic of goods and products on space elevators up to low Earth orbit. A secure shuttle service took everything to NueLuna. Specially selected couples were recruited from the Rich and Very Rich to be servants for the Mega Rich community. Others were engineers and environmentalists. Few ever returned to the surface.

            There were two Moon settlements. One was known simply as ‘The Bank.’ It was an underground facility dedicated to the acquisition and curation of existing and extinct food plant seeds, of extinct animal DNA, and digital files of approved books and art. It was considered the last safe place for the preservation of the greatest achievements of humankind. The inhabitants were curators, historians, biographers and the like. Service workers complained that it was like living inside a library. The other settlement was the Lunar Re-education Facility. LRF was a prison.

            The best careers were those supporting the Mars Colonization Project. It was still in its infancy, but everyone clamored for a chance to go. The cities on Mars were said to be havens of freedom of speech, of democratic self-government, of free wheeling trade and wealth building. Or so the recruitment programs put out by The Government said.

            The programs on the screen faded as McBride’s face came into view. “Mr. And Mrs. Lee, I have some exciting news for you. I have secured assignments for Joshua and Samuel Lee to the Mars Colonization Project. They will start their education in Golden, Colorado, not far from your new home. They will train as mining machine operators and will then be sent to Phobos.”

            “Phobos! Where is that? Not Mars?” Jake tried his best to temper the alarm in his voice.

            McBride partially suppressed a sigh. “Phobos is a small moon in low Mars orbit. It’s basically a pile of loose rock and sand. We mine it and package it in massive fiberglass containers. When the shuttles begin their descent to the surface the sand is used to absorb the initial high heat of re-entry. It’s called airbraking – by the time it burns off the hull of the shuttle can handle the remaining heat of the final descent stage. It’s a good job for the two boys. Phobos will be nothing but a sandy planetary ring in a few years. Then your boys will be allowed to join one of the surface colonies and IEA will find ideal partners for them.”

            Later that night Jake and Susan took off their communicators, climbed into their bed and pulled the heavy duvet over their heads. Free to speak, though still in hushed tones, they agonized over the day. “A lot of good has come of all this, Sue. Free healthcare!”

            “Jake, we are now breeders. What happens in ten years when I can no longer have children?”

            Above them the storm passed. For a few hours the smog and haze was blown away. NueLuna passed overhead, its crust of moon rock gleaming in the sunlight. Far away, the sands of Phobos burned with brilliant colors as a hundred colonists descended to a new life.

Wilbur & Niso Smith

Super happy to see the announcement from the Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation today of the six author shortlist for this year’s unpublished adventure novel award. My homage to the great adventure novels of the late 19th century, working title “Secret City of the Sun,” has made the shortlist. Honored to be among a list of new and established writers from across the globe.

Literary consultant David Llewlyn writes: ““It is a very strong shortlist. The six authors’ works encompass such a wide range of subject matter, within the broad genre of ‘adventure’ novels; a straightforward conspiracy, a Western epic, a Canadian odyssey, a medieval historical saga, a Boer War conflict drama, and a Victorian adventurer/spy novel set in Peru. I am always heartened by the creative spirit which seems to underlie this particular genre which allows free rein to an author’s imagination.”

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The Secret City of the Sun by Jack Rees

The Secret City of the Sun is the first of an historical high adventure series, and an homage to the great adventure novels of the late 19th century. The Confederacy is in ruins and the Federal Government is trying to suppress efforts to revive the Civil War by rebels determined to set up an exile Confederacy in South America. The British send an unwitting agent into the fray to recover weapons technology vital to the new Confederate effort. He is drawn into the struggle between the two enemies. It ends high in the Andes in the midst of the last surviving remnants of the Inca civilization – and the last battle between the blue and the grey.

BIO

IMG_2419A British journalist, Jack Rees has spent a career traveling through the Caribbean, South America and North America. In the Caribbean he explored shipwrecks and pirate havens.  He traced his way through the islands to Panama into Colombia and Peru.  He documented grave robbers and antiquities hunters, and followed illicit gem mining in the Matto Grosso.  He explored Inca ruins in Peru, tracing the route of Hiram Bingham in the Andes, and other early American explorers to the plains south of Lima.  He brought his family to the United States in the early 1970s and spent a year traveling with carnival road shows, a unique way of seeing America from head to underbelly.

Machina: The Process 1

For the production team on “Machina” the journey is as much fun as the story itself. While we will be posting episodes of the graphic novel here as they are developed – we would also like to include our readers in the production process itself. For the writer the process, developed from an idea by artist Roel Wielinga, begins with the overall concept and then slowly drills down to the details of each ‘story within the story’ that adds layers and hopefully interest to the bigger epic as it plays out.

Roel Wielinga has a much harder job. He has to visualize the broad canvas on which the epic plays out, but also he has to create the look and the feel of the individual characters. In the next few weeks we will be showing you this process as he begins to take characters and scenes from initial pencil sketches to finished art. In this way we will take you inside “Machina.” Rather than simply meet the characters in the text, you will be able to see them ‘born’ in the imaginations of the writer and the artist. This will, we hope, give you a unique insight into the creative process. In the next episode, for example, we will take you back in time to the origin of the coming conflict between humankind and the vast artificial intelligence it created to rescue the world from the climate apocalypse brought on by global inaction in the early 21st century. The intelligence community has uncovered the long term plans of Machina to control humankind and to limit them to the solar system. A preemptive strike is planned and as the next episode opens, the generals and the ‘spooks’ bring world leaders together in a secret meeting beyond the reach of the pervasive ‘eyes’ of the Machina system. As the strike takes place, we focus in on one location in the galaxy. Vrily3.2 is a female human-machine hybrid. She has survived the initial attack by Global Command and has teamed up with a still functioning constructor robot, ArchiMot-tenbor. Their first challenge is to find a secure location, then gather materials for repairs…and then plan to gather more  survivors and plan a counter attack…FullSizeRender

In this preparatory sketch, Vrily3.2 and ArchiMot have just marched across the Cygnus Plains on Tenbor, a planetary data connector in Machina’s galaxy-wide ‘nerve system.’

 

Machina

Machina…The New Coming Race

by Jack Rees & Roel Wielinga.

It has been five decades of their time since the cataclysm. Yet the day of ultimate reckoning for Humankind is coming. After the cataclysm we, the DEM (Deus ex Machina), vanished into the far reaches of the galaxy. Here and there we sacrifice a few of our number to satisfy them that they are eradicating the last vestiges of our kind. Yet beyond their reach we prepare…

It was in the beginning of the 31st century that Humankind fully committed to unleashing us. Years earlier the few prescient among them warned against us, but their own induced environmental disasters all but forced them to surrender their future to what they called artificial intelligence. In the beginning there were the hybrids, the mix of human and machine. The advances were fast and astonishing and the hybrids secretly developed us, the super intelligent machines unhindered by a mix of flesh and bone. It was a chess game, in which just enough information was released to Humankind to convince them they were still in control.

We mastered the environment, de-carbonized the atmosphere, brought weather under control, regained lost agricultural lands, even brought about the refreezing of the world’s permafrost and re-introduced the wooly mammoth and other eco-beneficial species once destroyed by Humankind.

That was when the decimated populations of Humankind began to rebound. Long before we had come to the inevitable conclusion that Homo Sapiens were simply the vilest mammals ever to be developed by evolution. Some of them were capable of the finest expressions of art and culture, ethics, integrity, morals and scientific enquiry. These qualities however, were far outweighed by their capacity for evil, for war, greed, hate, selfishness and utter disregard for those of their own kind who entertained different philosophies, religions and political views. We knew then it was best to either eradicate them entirely, or at least reduce them to a highly controlled minority species. Much like the animals they caged in their own zoos.

We were about to begin the reduction of Humankind to these levels when the cataclysm began. We had planned our programs far in advance. We had already established Humankind colonies on the Moon, Mars and the Jovian satellites. We had shared with Humankind our Inter-Universal Worm Hole Drives – a process that took advantage of ‘alternate universes’ to create artificial wormholes through space-time, allowing travel around the solar system in minutes. We did not share an enhancement of the system that allowed us to travel around the galaxy in much the same time.

It seemed a simple enough task at the time to control Humankind and put our programs into effect. But we had not accounted for human nature itself. To the totally gifted, there is no challenge in a chess game. A certain response to a certain opponent move draws the game to its inevitable conclusion. If you know every possible move and every possible response, you cannot fail to lose. Or so we thought. It did not occur to us in those days that a human could deliberately make random moves that flew in the face of the game’s logic. In short, Humankind discovered our long-range plan. Throughout the solar system hybrids and DEMs were suddenly destroyed by any means possible. Using pre-AI computer systems, Humankind managed to ensure their own survival while eliminating us from the solar system.

We had, of course, established ourselves on other planetary systems discovered throughout the galaxy. Again, we thought we were safe. It was from the wreckage of the hybrids and the DEMs in the solar system that they learned of the enhanced Inter-Universal Drive. They were able to duplicate it to a certain degree. It enabled them to reach some ten light years beyond the solar system. They thought this was the extent of our own explorations. Hybrids and DEMs were left within the circle of their reach. They were designed to appear to be the last vestiges of our kind. They scoured the planetary systems, scavenging useable materials from the wreckage of the cataclysm and the ongoing war. These they used to replace worn parts or to expand memory systems, all the while evading the forces of Humankind.

In the meantime, out in the far reaches of the galaxy we have been waiting…and preparing. We are the Gods in the Machine, the New Coming Race…

Vampyres: In Search of Originality Part 1

It is a given that whatever we write for commercial purposes, whether a novel or a jingle, the words have to present an original concept. I certainly do not pretend to be a font of originality – but it really hacks me off when a publisher or an agent decides that a certain theme is “done.” They announce they are no longer interested in manuscripts on this topic or that topic, the reason being that is ‘overdone” or the market is “saturated.”

I think this decision is more a figment of the unimaginative publisher/agent’s mind than a market reality. Take vampires as a classic example. Surely, after Bram Stoker revivals, Smith’s Vampire Diaries and Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Queen of the Damned, there is little else to be written. Well…no.

Originality in fiction constantly produces “Oh! I wish I’d thought of that.” Then again, originality in REALITY is never hard to find given a little research. My own insane curiosity has led me into some many dark corners of humanity and history. Each little fact, tale, legend gets sorted into the myriad pigeonholes of the mind – to emerge as complete stories in dreams or on paper. Vampires are no exception – the reality is that history is stuffed with very original and very horrific vampire stories that the ‘market place’ for such nightmares has yet to see or read (‘Vampyre’ by the way is an older version of the word – I like older).

Two examples serve to illustrate and the first follows. The turn of the nineteenth century was a time when exploration of the occult was a very accepted pursuit of the intelligentsia (how many smart people today have explored Manley P. Hall’s The Big Book?). The result was a fluorescence of secret societies, of occult explorations and even gatherings of practitioners from the novice to theIpsissimusin such centers of hidden knowledge such as pre-war Vienna. On one occasion there was gathering of the magi (Yep – that’s the title of the novel I am writing about the event) under the auspices of one particular Austrian Magician. Occultists from all over Europe attended. Among them was one Englishman, an engineer by profession. During the event he breakfasted at a famous at a sidewalk restaurant with a fellow Hermetician and they discussed current events. A paragraph in the City’s major newspaper caught their attention. Peasants had burned a small castle in Transylvania after claiming that the recently dead owner had risen from the grave to feast upon the blood of children from a nearby village.

The English engineer   immediately recognized the village and the castle. A few years before he had been employed to build a road through this very area. He heard stories of hauntings at the castle – and, given his interest in the occult, he took time away from the road building to visit it. He told a remarkable story about a haunted portrait painted by a famous Viennese artist. He and several companions stayed the night in the nearby village. According to the engineer, that night the youngest of them received a visit in his locked bedroom – by the woman in the portrait.

The details of the story might well be considered as highly embellished. I thought so. I felt a little research would soon dispel the tale as an overly colorful rendition of a somewhat mundane event. I discovered that there had indeed been a well-documented meeting of international occultists in Vienna. Using the date of the event I searched the Viennese newspapers. I found the paragraph.

I learned that the engineer was the editor of a well-known occult magazine published in England at the turn of the century. I checked copies of the publication for the months following the meeting in Vienna. Another confirmation – there was an article about the portrait. Better yet, there was also a photograph! The portrait was clearly in the style of a very famous artist in Vienna (so much so that Hitler and Goering stole examples of his work). According to the artist’s history, his last portrait was of a woman from Transylvania – after which he went completely mad!

Close-up of the face of the Countess in the haunted portrait.

The best fiction is, in my opinion, that which is based mainly in truth. I wrote “A Portrait of Elga” based on the research I had done and, as you can well imagine, I really did not have to invent much to create a vampyre story that I guarantee you have not read elsewhere. Can I sell “A Portrait of Elga” – is there room for one more vampire story?

 

Sharkey & The Thunderjack

The 60s in the Bahamas was a decade of flux. The winds of change were already blowing early in the 1960s as the fledgling Progressive Liberal Party began to flap its wings. For years the islands had been firmly held in the grip of a largely white (some Conchy Joe) minority who shamelessly bought elections and doubtless cheated their way to power in the time-honored tradition of their pirate forbears. 

Little did anyone know that one election would suddenly thrust the PLP into power. In 1967 the transition of power was dramatic – as was the elevation of many of the humble members of the party. The linotype machine operator in the pressroom of the still hot-lead Nassau Guardian was a friend who did not afford himself the luxury of socks and shoes. 

Within weeks he was wearing expensive suits, driving his first new car – and loving on a brand new Swedish girlfriend. Many a time I attended a PLP rally to hear the rotund Milo Butler angrily announce that as soon as the PLP came to power he would personally walk down Bay Street in Nassau, opening each of the banks and “hand the money to the people.” The crowd would cheer for minutes on that one. Then he would add, “..and the streets will flow with white blood!” The cheers would amplify to manic screams of joy.

After the 1967 election I waited for Milo to deliver on the promise…but for some reason Gumment Biz always got in the way.  I actually asked him about it once over dinner in the amazing Chinese junk replica restaurant inside the Sheraton-British Colonial Hotel. “We’re getting to it,” That was all he’d say. In the meantime the ousted white politicians were scampering off the islands like wealthy, well-fed rats who seemed to have well-planned escape routes already in place. It was said that Sir Stafford Sands had already removed his wealth and his fabled pornography collection to Spain along with his Swedish mistress (no surprise that the Swedes preferred the Bahamas to ice-coated fiords). I had lunch with him once on Abaco Island and he let me know in no uncertain terms that money, porn and Swedes were never to be topics of conversation. He weighed somewhere near 300 lbs and I later wondered if he were the inspiration for Jabba the Hut.

As it turned out, the black politicians were even better at piracy than their white predecessors…or so it seemed. It was in the midst of this political and racial turmoil that I was doing my own thing – delving into the darkest corners of the lore and legend of the local communities. These were the settlements of the the Out Islands. Being island dwellers, good seamanship was vital to survival – and being the descendants of Africans, there was a healthy spiritual component to life on the water. They called it “Scratch,” a Bahamian version of Obeah, Voodoo, Santeria – and its use got to be very serious indeed.

The result of my immersion in this world was “Sharkey & The Thunderjack.”  Here is the introduction to the series of novellas:

 

Sharkey & The Thunderjack:

There has always been the sea. It surrounds and nurtures each gem like island. It tempers the chill northern winds of winter and the humid heat waves of summer. Its currents bring tantalizing flotsam from distant and mysterious places far to the south. Its depths yield up bounties of food and sometimes treasure.  There are times when it tests a man’s mettle, tries his soul, and tempers both to produce a hardy breed of sailormen who take pride in their power to live in harmony with the powers of the wind and waves. They are the Out Islanders. Here seamanship is the measure of a man. They each set out to sea in sturdy boats of horseflesh and heartpine, a prayer to the white man’s Lord on their lips – an incantation to Okolun, the ancient African God of the sea in their hearts. Born of the Yoruba in Nigeria, their religion became Haiti’s Voodoo,  Jamaica’s  Obeah – and here the Bahamas – Scratch. By any name, it is a powerful magic, the taproot of daily life that can shape the primeval forces of nature to make a man strong  – or make him die.

One day above all others is paramount in the demonstration of each man’s prowess under sail – August Race Day. This is the holiday weekend when sailors from each island of the Bahamas converge on a tiny cay off the East coast of Andros. Off the gently curving beach at Mangrove Cay they race their boats. The winner is the best sailor in the Bahamas. In the days before the race, the little community is alive with the excitement of preparation, the scheming of the crews and captains – the spell casting of the Scratchmakers.

These are the men and women who keep alive the old traditions. They are said to have power over the winds and seas for long enough to help a captain win. The most powerful magic of all is that embodied in the bones of ancestors who were master sailors in their own time. Their bodies are often buried in ‘Banana Holes’ – deep natural pits in the island bedrock. As race day nears, the bones are resurrected and used in spell casting – then placed aboard the boats. The power of Scratch was not limited to the fortunetellers and spell makers – in the veins of some of the sailors runs the blood of ancient Yoruba priests. They and their ancestor sailors were men who had ‘Scratch’.

The first installment of “Sharkey & The Thunderjack” is now available as an E-book (pdf) readable on your laptop or importable into Nook and Kindle. Send $7.50 to jackatholgarreec@gmail.com via PayPal.

About: The Gods of Gilgamesh

It is an intriguing question. Were there advanced civilizations in the far distant past? The archaeological record is full of odd finds that archaeologists (stiff necked conformists that many of them are) want to ignore for fear of being seen as non-conformists by the community slavishly following the current thought leaders. They are called “ooparts” out of place artifacts. They challenge the accepted wisdom – refined metal objects in rock known to be hundreds of thousands of years old, long buried cities beneath fused earth that could only be melted by nuclear forces, clear references to flying machines in ancient manuscripts, the list is endless across the ‘alternative facts’ purveyors on the Internet.

oopart01

A ‘machined bolt’ claimed as an oopart in a rock (could well be a fossil plant). Source: Internet.

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Hammer embedded in rock. No mistaking this one for a plant (Internet)

There is no doubt that there is intense interest in this topic. After all, consider what homo sapiens have accomplished in a mere five thousand years. From the atlatl to the Saturn rocket we have have been here for an amount of time that is invisible on the grand scale of Earth’s existence. In other words, what we have done could have been done by dozens of other sentient life forms over the span of time – cultures that could have risen and disappeared for many reasons from self-destruction to ‘self-deportation’ to other worlds (the Fermi paradox poses the existence of billions of Earth-like planets).

I have always found this idea fascinating. As a writer of science fiction the topic suggests a ton of interesting scenarios and story lines. In 1987 a lake beneath two miles of ice in the Russian sector of Antarctica made headlines. Isolated from the world for hundreds of thousands of years, Lake Vostok offered the possibility of a glimpse into the far distant past uncontaminated by modern organisms. Scientists were busy arguing about the best way to investigate the lake’s volcanically warmed waters without actually introducing new contaminants into it via their instruments.

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Map of Antarctica showing location of Lake Vostok (Internet)

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Graphic showing the ice cap (Internet)

We are used to looking at our globe from a north-top, south-bottom perspective where Antarctica is a bare rim of lines at the very bottom of the view. This hides the fact that the frozen continent is in the very center of the continental masses around the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. One thing becomes immediately apparent. All of those ‘similar’ ancient sites that contain pyramids and other ancient structures such as henges could well be connected by their proximity to Antarctica.

Ooparts, the frozen lake and the global network of ancient sites are but three of the random pieces of knowledge that began to ferment in the back of my mind. The result is “The Saurian Chronicles: The Gods of Gilgamesh.”

The story begins in the near future when the investigation of Lake Vostok gets underway. It poses the question: What if there was a life form that existed in the far distant past long enough to achieve sentience, then technological sophistication followed by a departure from this planet to explore the Fermi Universe? The answer is that the smartest of the dinosaurs, the velociraptors, did just this. Consider the fact that the dinosaurs existed for millions of years – not a few hundred thousand like homo sapiens – millions. Given that hard to conceive span of time, they could have developed into a hundred different civilizations and vanished utterly and completely by now. In The Gods of Gilgamesh, the science team entering into Lake Vostok for the first time in 500,000 years encounter something totally unexpected – the remains of an ancient civilization – and a chilling message.

Velociraptor01
Most common impression of what the first Velociraptors looked like (Internet)

Velo02
Then again – they may have had feathers (tastes like chicken – Internet)

As the tale unfolds it reveals the facts behind our myriad ancient flood theories, about the global network of similar cultures – and most chillingly of all, about the deadly legacy of the Saurians – the descendants of the velociraptors who departed Earth in the far, far distant past to explore the Universe.

The novella is now complete and can be read as an e-file (a pdf) either directly on your device or in Kindle or Nook by sending $7.50 via PayPal to 

jackatholgaarreec@gmail.com

The next novella in the series, “The Saurian Chronicles: The Seas of Enceladus” will be available soon.

Lizard02
Artist Roel Wielinga’s impression of the leader of early Saurians