Fragment: Tourism / All hail the white heroes

1: TOURISM

Original quote until “the guns turn into flowers” from Rochita Loenen Ruiz, March 3 2013.

All hail the white heroes

Yeah, especially when they’re benevolent military people

They can do no wrong

Not even when they point a gun at your head

As their guns transform into flowers and gifts

And their harsh voices into the songs of angels

And the cracks of their shots into the cries and flights of birds

And the deaths into forgotten people

Buried in mass graves

Under the new hotels

That arise from their bones

2: “Monument”

Somehow I got triggered by this to re-visit “Monument“, a story by Lloyd Biggle. “Monument” is very troubled due to the “mighty whitey” thing.

The planet has a single continent, inhabited by humans with a Polynesian culture. The natives live contented lives, hunting a horrific sea-creature called the koluf, which constitutes almost their entire diet. Obrien uses his surviving technology to rid the area of several pests, and eventually marries. The natives come to call him the “Langri”, a title of deep respect.

Yeah… 1974. American writer, “Polynesian culture” (how the fuck did that get up there in space Lloyd Biggle? The magic Plot Device?), benevolent white savior kind of shit.

Here is why I liked it (bold):

The Navy eventually arrives, official negotiations ensue, and a treaty is signed recognizing the planet under the name Langri. The people of Langri fine the Federation for illegal landings. In due course, this (and Obrien’s retron crystals) allows the people of Langri to hire a law firm as specified in the Plan.

[…]

In accordance with the Plan, the people of Langri have been secretly learning to read. After having achieved the required high literacy rate, they successfully petition for membership in the Galactic Federation. The Plan then enters its endgame: the duly formed planetary government imposes a tax rate of 1000%. Since the natives have few personal assets, they can easily afford to pay, but such an exorbitant rate would bankrupt Wembling. The developer mounts a legal challenge, but there is precedent that a government can impose any tax it wishes, as long as it is applied equally to all. Obrien knew of this obscure precedent and made it the cornerstone of the Plan.

What I liked is how the “plan” focuses on development and using the law (instead of guns) to win a war against a stronger power.

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Writing: Fragments from “Future History”

Below are several fragments from “Future History”. A story I wrote for: “We see a different frontier”, passed first reading by the team and which I withdrew and reworked due to complete unhappiness with the second half.

Fragments from “Future History”

Chapter 1: there has been a bombing of churches and shops.

Black barbie

[Beginning of chapter 2.]

Mickey Mouse, Coca Cola, Barbie, Baby Born, Wall Mart, Best Buy, Saturn, Media World, Lidl, Spar, Penny Market, Prada, Zara, Gucci, Douglas, Starbucks. McDonalds, Burger King. Roman Catholic church, Anglican church, Pentecostal church, New Apostolic church, Lutheran church, Seventh-day Adventist church. Siemens, Dell, IBM, Nokia, IKEA.

I had black Barbie and black Baby Born. We ate every Sunday with our parents at McDonalds after our church visit. My furniture is from IKEA.

What did I know?

.

I feel a clear sense of repulsion, anger, refusal. This damaged street is just one of the most recent reflection of decades and centuries in which our culture has been invaded and slowly destroyed by yours.

Resentment? Let me correct that: I hate you.

This is not our war. Still you bring it here, killing innocent bystanders just to make a point. To start a war. To get the green light from your mostly white population and your mostly male, mostly white decision-makers.

It does not matter that your ‘facts’ are no facts at all.

“Say no to piracy”

[Chapter 2.]

I walk on, down to Haile Selassi avenue to the place where another set of bombs hit several shops and restaurants from American and European franchises. The same image: flowers and fruits stacked in front of the ruins. The same emotions inside of me. Anger, rage.

A billboard, only slightly damaged, tilting slightly to the tight, the e-paper under the unbroken glass still working and updating, telling me to: “SAY NO TO PIRACY” and to: “report when you suspect someone of piracy” because: “Piracy damages our economy and therefore damages you!”

When I was sixteen they sold brandless shirts on the streets, before the street vendors were terrorized and bullied away by the police. I remember bootleg T-shirts and bootleg dresses were sold in shops until these shops were terrorized by lawyers hired by foreign companies.

Piracy. Theft.

We swapped hard drives and later SD-cards stacked with software, music, movies, e-books: using netbooks and cheap Chinese tablets. Bypassing the need for an internet-connection. Absorbing knowledge, reading about the things nobody else would teach us otherwise because we were too poor to buy the books. Being taught by my mother, teaching each other when mom was not there.

Piracy.

We produce the T-shirts, the clothing, the branded bags, the hardware in Chinese owned factories; the work outsourced to us. The produce is shipped overseas and then a small stack sent back to us, to be sold in our shops; wholesale prices risen to ten times the combined price of labor, materials and production.

Privilege

[From chapter 6.]

My big sister, Lentisha, closes her backpack. It is close to midnight.

Three days ago we decided to run, because the alternative: to sacrifice ourselves for a greater cause, is too harsh for me and mom to accept. It has led to several fierce discussions until big sister finally gave in.

Several kilo’s of re-directed military grade food bars have been on the table until half an hour ago. Additional hardware we need to connect to the drones are now distributed over our three bodies. The intercepted military smart-suits have been a welcome bonus.

We sing softly with mom as she cries from her eyes. She kisses us on our forehead and cheeks. We might never return home again.

Then we shoulder our backpacks and leave the house.

It is April and the end of the rain season. Our names are about to emerge in the next six hours and we are not allowed to erase them. “That is the only privilege we are not willing to grant you.” It is better to disappear now.

Notes on this fragment:

“That is the only privilege we are not willing to grant you.”

According to Merriam Webster, “Privilege” is:

a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : prerogative; especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office

Take a look from that perspective to this previous sentence (bold added).

 Our names are about to emerge in the next six hours and we are not allowed to erase them.

Who is granting those privileges? Why? What is their right to do so? What right do they have to play like this with people’s lives?

This reference to “privilege” is used within the story world  as a very explicit reminder that the things that make that revolution possible are not to be taken for granted. They are “given”. And the “benevolent ones” who did so repeat the same pattern of  cruelty they are fighting against in their totally random wielding of those privileges.

Even within one of the possible new systems to come there is no equality, nor is there respect for human values. Later:

I feel tired and exhausted, filled with a new rage that comes from the arrest of two friends I knew from university. They did not run.

“Privilege” makes everything suspect. The war for freedom is not a clean war at all. The result is not a brave new world where everything is perfect. It reveals another system of control, of “Us” and “Them” and the murky aspects of any war I try to address in parts like the next one:

“Did we do right?” #1

[From chapter 10.]

I have become more and more plagued by doubt. I am scared. I am scared to see the type of changes that will ripple forward, changing our future history, leading to new wars.

I have very clear doubts about the directions we chose.

Did we have that right? Are we doing it right? Were we really free in our choices or has our game be rigged as well? How are we not falling into a new trap? A new system of oppression? How do we prevent falling back into the old ones?

I question the rationale behind the concept of the privilege we were ‘given’, of not being allowed to edit the hit-lists, not being allowed to completely redirect the arrests as we had done with the supplies. Who were they to talk about ‘privileges?’ ‘Granting it?’ In how far are ‘they’ the same as the ones we fought against? Why those sacrifices?

[…]

Why did we follow this specific path into the future when other ways are available as well? Is the hate that big? Is our urge to damage so deep?

The hate, the urge to damage.

I shake my head slowly, push my hand against the wall.

It feels like things are spinning out of control.

War is a mess.

“Poverty has never been related to stupidity”

[Beginning of chapter 3.]

Four years ago you could not pay the rent anymore.

We removed everything we did not need from my house, covered one wall with cabinets. We put two beds in the living room: one in the front, one in the back. A photo of papa is on a cabinet next to mama’s bed. He died in a mining accident: a sand-slide, unnoticed until it was too late due to a lack of security measures.

I sleep upstairs.

The beds of mama and you, my big sister, are covered with a sheet in daytime.

I sit down on the edge of mama’s, still shaking from rage and sadness, holding mom’s hand. You are in the other corner, one leg pulled up, biting on the knuckle of your index finger and watch me silently from your old chair. Contemplating.

[…]

[Beginning of chapter 7.]

Poverty has never been related to stupidity.

—Costanza Cruz-Halloway, May 2028, pirate press, ‘Freedom: The first IP wars’.

There are shadows in the field of vision of the small drones that try to cover the sky and the city. There are clusters of small viral code hiding in the system, spread via updates they received over the last two years. Something is deep-hacking the eyes and the images they send, keeping us out of the feed. Deep-hacking the sensor-data it sends. Erasing ourselves from it, erasing our ID’s from the simple data streams they provide.

These shadows allow us to move through the city of Lusaka unnoticed as long as we move with them, wait for new shadows to appear when others move on, on our way to the bus stop. And I feel grateful for the careful planning, the care that others took over us, long before this very moment. And I look at your back, big sister and almost cry again for your persistence, defying all the negativity people gave you for all those years: “Why so negative? Why this hostility? You are crazy. You want trouble? There is already enough trouble. Everything will be fine. Let the government fix it.”

(I like how that one quote: “Poverty has never been related to stupidity” changes some subtle elements in the story.)

“Did we do it right?” #2

[From chapter 9.]

I step outside and walk to mama, who is looking at the waterfall, her body frozen as if she has forgotten about herself.

“Did we do the right thing?” she asks me when I am three steps from her. Then she sighs.

“It is so easy to quit. Out of fear, out of the idea that we were powerless, that this country had nothing to offer.”

“We cannot think like that,” I say, embracing her from behind.

“Sweetheart, all of my life I have been giving my power away.” She touches my cheek with the soft side of her flat hand as if I am a child again. “I never expected it would be remotely possible, never thought it would be normal people like us to liberate Zambia. I was waiting while they were killing us by the thousands and thousands and thousands: by disease, by misinformation, by keeping us poor and docile. I have been making so many apologies for people who do not deserve any apology at all.”

No longer welcome here

This fragment lost the battle of existence due to word-count, reduction, repetition and being almost-but-not-entirely-there.

[Chapter 9. Removed]

I look up and I re-read the second part of the message that is engraved in a stone plate embedded in the pillar in front of me. One of the many we sent into the world.

It is simply called: “To you, who once oppressed me.” It has no name underneath.

You think you are civilized.

You think you are powerful.

You think you have the answers.

You think you are an example for the rest of the world.

You think I cannot manage on my own.

You think I need you.

You are wrong.

.

Your culture is toxic.

Your leaders are talking puppets.

Your economic models just another system of oppression.

Your ideals are the works of sociopaths.

.

You think I still owe you for all you have done to me.

You still think you can deny and pollute my agency.

Your arrogance is beyond comprehension.

.

You have sabotaged my culture.

You continued to cripple my country.

You continued to enslave and murder my people.

I reject you.

.

Your culture is no longer relevant.

Your ‘help’ is no longer needed.

Your claims have never been valid.

Your debt to me can never be repaid.

You are no longer welcome here.

“You think I still owe you for all you have done to me” was a nice twist.

Backgrounds

The call for submissions for “We see a different frontier” boiled down to:

We See a Different Frontier will publish new speculative fiction stories in which the viewpoint is that of the colonized, not the invader. We want to see stories that remind us that neither readers nor writers are a homogeneous club of white, male, Christian, hetero, cis, monoglot anglophone, able-bodied Westerners. We want the cultures, languages and literatures of colonized peoples and recombocultural individuals to be heard, not to show the White Man learning the error of his ways, or Anglos defending the world from colonizing extraterrestrials. We want stories that neither exoticize nor culturally appropriate the non-western settings and characters in them.

Before I wrote the first draft of “Future History” I decided it was going to be an “angry story”. The colonization (and erasure) part would be about a different kind: that of global trade and the outsourcing of work to low-cost countries. Since I was working on the series of: “The Decline of Europe” it would be in that universe and at a pivotal moment I called “The IP wars”.

The “IP wars” are based on the idea that Intellectual Property (short: “IP”) is part of the new warfare. A warfare that is no longer about land, but about trade, production, sales, market domination. These wars focus on “piracy” and have several aspects to them including censorship and the diminishing of basic human rights.

While editing “Future History” in the last days I started realizing that I am repressing a lot things. I am very angry, scared and confused about the things that are happening around me. More than I assumed until then.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz states about her story for “We see a different frontier” in a recent interview by Jocelyn Paige Kelly:

Writing that story terrified me. Sending it out terrified me. And knowing that it’s going to be read terrifies me. Why? Because it doesn’t present a pleasing or comforting aspect of colonization. There is no narrative of gratitude or peace. I found it terrifying to write because it tells the truth of what happens when a people’s innocence is violated. Being faced with the violence of my own feelings was rather terrifying and I have often wondered if I should have changed it in some way, if I should have made it milder, but then I think: but the story is meant to be that way and changing it would be a falsification and a betrayal of what art is all about.

And I understand the sentiments. When I dove into my story: “Future History”, the narrative became that of: “Fuck you”. “Fuck off” and “You murdered my people, destroyed my culture and crippled my country”. I was not terrified writing “Future History”. I was mildly angry.

And if I allow myself — instead of repressing it as I constantly do — I am actually enormously pissed off and very, very sad.

“Future History” is as much about Europe as it is about “Zambia”, the place I chose to write it in. “Future History” is about the lies that are used to repress and oppress entire populations. To keep them/us docile.

As I only use and collect clippings, and lack the deeper knowledge from deeper research, I am confused. I am incredibly pissed off but when I try to tell you why I do not get much further than: “blublublublu– let’s just say it’s immense and complicated”.

What I did

In stories like “Future History” I use article clippings. From those clippings and other more location specific readings I make collages which I then situate in imaginary “future” or “alternate” versions of “The Netherlands”, “France”, “Europe” or “Zambia” in this case.

These clippings do not show “reality” or “facts”. They just show possibilities. Angles. Possible view-points on a situation. Things that can be mis-interpret and mistaken for “reality” very easily.

From “The deadly tin inside your iPad“: (Bloomburg)

On May 29, in the bottom of a tin-mining pit on Bangka Island in Indonesia, a wall about 16 feet high collapsed, sending a wave of earth crashing down on a 40-year-old father of two. His name was Rosnan. The dirt crushed his legs, sent something sharp slicing through his right thigh, and buried him from the waist down. […]

“He kept repeating, ‘Please, please help me,’ ” recalls Rosnan’s son, Dian Chandra, 20, who rode in the back of a car with his father to a nearby hospital. Rosnan lost too much blood. “I couldn’t find a pulse,” says Dr. Mario, the emergency room physician on duty.

Why was the place not secured?

[…] the area where Rosnan was working was an illegal mine,

Understanding the scope:

Rosnan worked among thousands of Indonesians who wield pickaxes and buckets each day on Bangka Island, extracting the tin that becomes the solder that binds components in the world’s tablet computerssmartphones, and other electronics.

In the case of “Future History” I talk about revolt and the reasons to do so. Constant neglect and people dying around you due to that is one. So I need something bigger. Something like this: (From AmericaBlog)

Walmart rejected safety upgrades at Asia factory where 100 die in fire

[…]

At a meeting convened in 2011 to boost safety at Bangladesh garment factories, WalMart Stores Inc. (WMT) made a call: paying suppliers more to help them upgrade their manufacturing facilities was too costly.

To bring it closer to Zambia: (France 24)

Two Chinese mine managers accused of shooting 13 coal miners in Zambia over a labour dispute have walked free after the judge dropped all charges, reporters in Livingstone said Tuesday.

Connecting some dots. Working conditions and mining: (Human rights watch)

The 122-page report, “‘You’ll Be Fired If You Refuse’: Labor Abuses in Zambia’s Chinese State-owned Copper Mines,” details the persistent abuses in Chinese-run mines, including poor health and safety conditions, regular 12-hour and even 18-hour shifts involving arduous labor, and anti-union activities, all in violation of Zambia’s national laws or international labor standards. […] Copper mining is the lifeblood of the Zambian economy, contributing nearly 75 percent of the country’s exports and two-thirds of the central government revenue.

The emerging story for “alternate world ‘Zambia’ ” becomes a bit clearer.

Proper labor conditions are expensive. If and when you can save money on your total revenue, you will. The fact that this is about actual human beings is a secondary issue. You will never meet them anyway and what can they do? Strike? Murder some manager? Who do they have on their side? The law? The government?

“Two Chinese mine managers[…]  shooting 13 coal miners […] walked free after the judge dropped all charges“.

If you think this kind of abusive scenarios only happen “abroad”, think again: (Guardian)

Inside Amazon’s flagship factory in Rugeley, Staffordshire, a new way of working is evolving. There is a strong topnote of distrust, evinced by the full-body scanners that workers have to pass, every time they leave, to prove they haven’t stolen anything.

[…]

Meanwhile, in Tesco’s Donabate distribution centre in Dublin, workers wearing these tags are awarded percentages for their speediness (100% if they perform a task in the time estimated, 200% if they’re twice as fast, and so on), but claim they are docked if they take a loo break; afterwards, they find they have to work much faster – to get back up to their 100%.

While this seems “unrelated”, the main drive is money. “Produce more for less cost”. If and when one can get away with the violation of human rights, one will.

In the story I deliberately stay away from pointing fingers to specific parties, like: “it is the fault of the [fill in group]”. I keep it vague. Unlike my characters in the story I do and did not have weeks to research through already collected data.

How governments can protect you

Or: how the reality of law and crime is bendable and “safety” and “we live in a democracy” is relative: (Aljazeera)

The US has pursued “domestic terrorism” by practicing pre-emptive prosecution, that is, going after individuals who have committed no crime but are alleged to possess an ideology that might dispose them to commit acts of “terrorism”. Maintaining that it can -and should – be in the business of divining intent, the government decimates crucial elements of the US justice system.

Murder by neglect

Within “Future History” I relate the working conditions and the people who suffer and die due to that (due to lack of proper protection and proper working conditions) directly to murder (by neglect). Here is why: if you deliberately expose people to dangerous working conditions you are deliberately putting people in danger. Even though it is not you who pushes a person into the machine, it is your neglect that creates all the conditions leading to the accident. Especially when this is not the first time it happens.

The neglect itself is in most cases due to aforementioned economical motivations and it goes something like this: “Why would we invest in safety-precautions in a country we do not live in, for people we never met?” Apart from the possible additional justifications like: “They should be happy we outsource our [whatever] to them.”

Adding to this: (Independent Catholic News)

A Catholic Missionary Sister dedicated to HIV/Aids prevention in Africa has condemned the widely-held view that the Church’s ban on condoms is responsible for the spread of the virus. Sister Luzia Wetzel, coordinator of the Zambia’s Youth Alive HIV/Aids prevention programme, told Aid to the Church in Need that the effectiveness of condoms at preventing the spread of the virus is highly overrated.

[…]

The Sister, who has been working in Africa for 40 years, said: “Condoms are not the solution to Aids.”

She said that rather than concentrating on condoms – which she stressed do not provide 100 percent protection – other issues, such as behaviour change, are key to tackling the problem. The Youth Alive programme, which has been running in all of Zambia’s dioceses, emphasises abstinence from pre-marital sex and faithfulness in marriage.

While “other issues, such as behaviour change” are certainly relevant, it is used in this context to derail the conversation. When you add to this a broken education on sexually transmitted diseases you simply are in complete denial of reality.

The results of this denial of reality are thousands and thousands of people being mis-informed. Or to be more clear: being derailed and lied to. And through this derailing and those lies thousands of people get sick and thousands of people die.

From Unicef a little peek into reality:

As the HIV epidemic moves into the second decade of rapid spread in Zambia, it has now become a generalised and mature epidemic.
Current estimates suggest 226 new adult infections and 25 new child infections occur each day, although each of these rates is projected to decline in coming years. The total number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) continues to rise, due to both new infections and the fact that increased access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) allows a larger number of HIV-infected people to live longer. Of the PLHIV, it is estimated that in 2010 310,898 adults and 41,563 children are in need of (ART). For the year 2011, these numbers are expected to rise to 337,316 and 43,625, respectively. Seventy percent of tuberculosis patients in Zambia have HIV. Ninety percent of new infections are believed to be driven by the following factors:
• Multiple and concurrent sexual partners;
• Low and inconsistent condom use;
• Low levels of male circumcision;
• Mobility and labour migration.

For the Catholic Church the contraception issue has been for a very long time like this: (Wikipedia)

 […] in 1963-66. Contraception is defined as “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.” Contraception so defined is considered intrinsically evil.

In short: “AIDS should be solved by abstinence because condoms are evil.”

The lies and the derailing does not stop there. (Wikipedia)

[…] “senior spokesman” Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo [of the Vatican] – claimed that condoms are permeable to the aids virus. He explained to BBC interviewers that “The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom.” These false claims were echoed by an archbishop of Nairobi, as well as by Catholics as far Asia and Latin America.

The total amount of people suffering from AIDS in Zambia (2009, UNICEF) is estimated around 980 000. The total population is 16 million.

On February 24: (Global Voices Online)

The Zambian government has reportedly engaged Chinese experts to install a secret internet monitoring facility in the country. In tandem with this move, President Michael Sata has given authorization to the Special Division of the Office of the President (also known as the Zambian Security Intelligence Service) to monitor the telephone and online communications of anyone living in Zambia if ordered to do so by the Attorney General.

Now read this quote from “Future History”:

“I never expected it would be remotely possible, never thought it would be normal people like us to liberate Zambia. I was waiting while they were killing us by the thousands and thousands and thousands: by disease, by misinformation, by keeping us poor and docile. I have been making so many apologies for people who do not deserve any apology at all.”

Concluding

As said, “Future History” is not about Zambia. It is about “Zambia”, an alternate world version I made up using several clippings, WikiPedia and Google Maps.

“Future History” is about the mechanics of war for profit. A war for market domination. It is about the invasion and erasure of cultures and countries by foreign brands and foreign religions. It is about cheap labor and the neglect of human rights by ignorant cultures: exporting their systems of oppression and complete disdain for human values under the flag of trade and “support”.

While we project a lot of our own ignorance on others, this ignorance  is a deep part of my Euro/American culture.

Cutting it short: Anything we assume about “Africa” and any other “3rd world country” is through a filter of our own denial. Our “1st world” culture is toxic, ignorant, abusive, meddlesome and arrogant. We are like schizophrenics pretending to be doctors of enlightened civilization. “You are ignorant and poor. Let me fix that for you. No, I INSIST!”.

“They” do not “need” us as we tend to believe “they” do. We should stay the fuck out of ANY “development country”.  If anything needs fixing in this world it is our very own Euro/American mindset and out very own and very broken Euro/American culture.

As for my own anger, my own repressed fury: I hope to reach that point where my research is more than just collecting clippings. Where my incoherent blabbering on many different topics becomes a focused dissection of what is structurally wrong with my own Dutch and Euro/American society. Where I can take on any topic in that field and write 6 000 words of narrative that leaves you shattered, confused, completely pissed off and more aware of how you and your perfect little world have been abused and broken and broken over and over again.

“Future History” is not even touching 10% of that rage. And I welcome the slow shift I seem to be going through. I am enraged. And I slowly start to understand why.

Fragments: rewrite of “Future History”

In the past days I have been rewriting “Future History” following the steps in my previous post: “Withdrawal and reworking Future History“.

I am trying to finish it before end of day today.

Fragment, chapter 9 — “we reject you”

Everything we always assumed about ourselves has been a lie.

It has been a lie that helped a few people to stay on top. To keep the masses quiet. I re-read one of the many statements that have been sent out to the world by the people of Uganda:

This is an open letter to all of you who think you can put a claim on us.

We have closed our country for repairs until further notice.
We do no longer want your interference.

You think you are civilized.
You think you are powerful.
You think you have the answers.
You think you are an example for the rest of the world.
You think we cannot manage on our own.
You think we need you.
You are wrong.

Your cultures are toxic.
Your leaders are talking puppets.
Your economic models just another system of oppression.
Your ideals are the works of sociopaths.

You think we still owe you for all you have done to us.
You still think you can deny and pollute our agency.
Your arrogance is beyond comprehension.

You have sabotaged our culture.
You continued to cripple our country.
You continued to enslave and murder our people.
We reject you.

Your culture is no longer relevant.
Your ‘help’ is no longer needed.
Your claims have never been valid.
Your debt to us can never be repaid.
You are no longer welcome.

We  have closed our country for repairs until further notice.

Fragment 2, chapter 8

It is the beginning of September, the cool dry season is over and the hot dry season is starting.

The morning sky is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The deep blue with layers of red and orange. It will only be minutes before the sun is up. There is dew on the grass. I absorb the glory of the trees look up to see the mist of tiny droplets above the Lumangwe waterfall that will reflect the sun in several rainbows later today. Almost five months have passed since we came back from the woods. The running and the fighting is over for now. We can finally take a moment to sit down and breathe again.

We have taken over the drones. Our government has fallen. Uganda, South Sudan, Namibia and Nigeria have joined us in turning away from the European/American/Arabian/Chinese power blocks. Chaos and doubt reigns within our country and within the hearts of our people.

“Did we do the right thing?”

“Is this worth turning the world against us?”

“Why do we have to hate and reject the people who saved us?”

“How will the rest of the world judge us?”

We have sabotaged the supply lines to support the soldiers who should not be there to begin with. Supplies get sent to wrong destinations. People get sent to wrong places. Orders do not reach their destination. Confusion is our weapon. Chaos our ally. It buys us time.

We have chemical laboratories from the Chinese. We have mining equipment. We have drones. We have factories to build cars and engines. We have laboratories that allow us to build nano-scale solutions. We have mapped out all the relevant, pirated research and development data Saudi Arabia bought and collected until 2023.

Fragment 3, chapter 3 and 4

I sit down on the edge of her bed, holding her hand. You just watch me from your chair.

An accident five years ago twisted your lower vertebrae, paralyzing you from the waist down. You loved sports, you were top class, will always be my hero, just not good enough for the Olympics, but close.

Your face is dark with grief. You have been expecting this for more than a year now. Predicting this, step by step. Watching it unfold and come together. You nod when you see my eyes. My friends have been telling me to stay out of this business you are involved in, that is why I have not been doing anything until now. But too many of them are now dead.

You cross your legs. You breathe in deep. You look at me, blue eyes blazing, nod. The torment and the fire inside you hits me deep and the anger releases, allowing me to cry. You knew. And I feel bad for ignoring it all for so long.

[…]

Software running inside your body takes care of the muscles in your legs, your back, the muscles in your pelvic area so that you can walk and do not have to wear diapers.

Your walking is almost natural. It is hard to notice the difference until you know what to look for: the lack of tiny corrections from a conscious mind. Your legs and your hips are more like a biped vehicle attached to your waist: a vehicle you are driving with your mind.

We walk hand in hand until we reach the river of cars that is Katima Mulilo road at high time, sit down.

Fragment 4, end of chapter 9

I meet Sister in a coffee house on Bombay road.

Her eyes shine.

“You look beautiful,” I say, looking at her face, the smile that is all over her.

 She laughs.

“It is a beautiful day.”

I take her hands. She squeezes mine.

“Something has changed,” I say.

She smiles and something touches me. I have never seen her so happy.

“I can feel my feet again.”

“Yes,” she says later, when the crying is done, when the hugging is done. When we sit down again. When I share my uncertainties. “Many things are still uncertain, but understand this, sister: these are our lives. This is our country, our continent. These are our minds. We are not in war with the world. But any time they will attempt to interfere they will find how fragile their own power structure is. How easy it is to strike them on the places that hurt most. How their power, their wealth and their connections will no longer protect them. How our confusion is anything but weakness. It will take two more wars and the destruction of thousands of people on their side: Chinese, European, Indian, American, North African, before they will understand and respect our simple request: Stay out. Leave us alone. Let us write our own future history again.”

I bow my head, push the little cup around on its little saucer.

“But what if we fail?”

She shrugs, leans back, smiles, starts to laugh out loud.

“Then we move to plan B.”

Fragments: The moon who loves the stars who love the earth — Fragment 1

“Shit!” she said. “Shit! Shit, shit, SHIT and CARROTS!”

— from: The moon who loves the stars who love the earth

Almost done editing 3 short stories, including “Scars in the fabric of time” and “Future History“. Now working on a story in fragments that takes “Dropping sexual gender bias” and moves my work a little step further along those lines.

The title is work in progress and reflects the fact that it plays on the moon and there is (probably) some triangle going on.

Trigger warning: contains mentions of genitals and explicit sex of non-standard non-heterosexual type.

The moon who loves the stars who love the earth — Fragment 1

Status: Raw, unedited first drafts

She leaned forward over the railing, looking at the girl who was standing out in the crowd below, dark curls, white face.

“Her?”

“Yes.”

“She looks exotic,” she said. “Pale skin. There are not many Europeans here. Exotic but… bland. A bland face.”

“But look at how she moves, Eun-Soo.”

Eun-Soo leaned a few centimeters further forward, putting more strain on the arms, her eyes fixed on the girl below.

“I can see what you mean.”

Within the crowd, the girl seemed to be striding, gliding, perfectly female. She stopped for a moment, put one hand in the lush curls that were half-long, forming a cloud of golden hair around her face. Dark eyebrows, deep blue eyes, a full sensual mouth, dark stubbles shimmering through on the chin. Not yet aware of the staring eyes from one floor higher.

“She looks elegant. A bit skinny though.”

The coverall covered the slender petite body, the sleeves strapped up, revealing the sea-green inside. A tattoo emerging from the wrist, moving up the skin under the fabric. Two rings reflecting the light in multi-faceted stones embedded in silver and black.

“What does she do?”

“Engines,” Shri said.

“Hardly any breasts,” Eun-Soo said.

When she looked up, distracted or attracted by something else, Eun-Soo waved. A moment of bafflement on that pale, European face, then a smile revealed white teeth.

“She is at least happy-go around,” Eun-Soo said. “She reminds me of my cat… Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. Happy, happy, happy. Let’s hope she is not stupid as well.”

He nodded.

“Let’s go down.”

I am taking on several aspects, including the depiction of “exotic” people and playing with current stereotypes in Euopean/American SF/F. The reversal of exoticness from a Euro/American centric point of view itself is one aspect and the beginnings of something I want to dive deeper into. I do not intend to leaving it at that, taking into account that simply reversing things is just as stupid and short-sighted as actually doing it. And taking into account many similar aspects as mentioned in this post : “Mixed race-people in SF/F” by Aliette de Bodard.

Quoting the conclusion of that post:

If you’re using mixed-race people in your fiction and feature ANY of those tropes, do please think for a moment of what it is that you’re saying (and I wish I could say it’s not the case, but I’ve seen all of these–yes, even the hybrid/mongrel–at some point in recent SFF, either in print or in other media).

The same goes for using topics like homosexuality, polygamy and anything else being touched in “The moon–“.

Playing more with breaking gender-stereotypes and the relative meaning of he/she, I give you:

Fragment 2

“You are nice,” she said, touching the soft cheek of Shri, holding his hard, ball-less penis in her other, sliding one finger inside his vagina, making tiny movements. He smiled.

“I hate the moment we will be separated,” he said.

Shri wrapped his arm around her waist, kissed her chest, looked up.

“You are really nice. I love you, Shri.”

“Love you too,” he said softly.

 “Fuck me,” she said, opening her leg, spreading her lips with two fingers.

He moved up, spat on his hand, put the spit on the tip of his dick, moved inside of her, slowly.

“Deeper.”

Deeper.

It is currently unclear and probably irrelevant for the story whether Shri is hermaphrodite by medical or natural means. There will be a scene Shri’s behavioral patterns switches to “she” and “it” and Eun-Soo does the same. To make things even more confusing for my dear future readers, the gender-bias associated to “he” and “she” will not be as you expect it to be, but completely arbitrary and personal to the one who observes.

Erasure by exclusion / exploring gender bias and gender roles

European and American mainstream culture is quite fixed in the assumption on gender roles. This makes it quite rare to find stories even moving slightly away from the generic “he is a person with a male body” and “she is a person with a female body”. By doing so, it excludes and erases a small but existing part of humanity from the map of literature.

“We have all kinds of exiting stories (in space) but you do not exist here (either).”

When you are part of the mainstream definition of humans, you will not notice this lack. Just as when you are a Person of White Color, you will not notice that many European and American movies, stories and series hardly represent the rest of the world AT ALL either. Except for being “exotic” or “special”.

Gender roles do not have to be bound to physical appearance. And in this story and the future history it is part of (the next phase in the world of “The decline of Europe”) gender indicators (he/she/it) are tightly bound to behavior and personal taste.

If that confuses you: that is perfectly OK.

By the way, “Eun-Soo” is — according to my incredibly deep research — a male name.

Culture

The thing with culture is: it is a tricky bastard. I have seen things done incredibly poor and painfully wrong in “The Windup Girl”, “River of Gods” and a third book I do not remember the title of, which is even more (probably unintentionally) racist in its assumptions than “Windup girl” and assumes China rules the world and Chinese cities cover Europe to cater an out-of-control over-population. .

One reason cultural representation goes wrong is lack of research. The second is lack of awareness. The third (especially with Windup Girl) is the unawareness of one’s own racism and racist stereotypical thinking. The fourth is the reason of use: “EXOTICNESS! SEE HOW I DO NOT WRITE ABOUT YOUR DEFAULT WHITE EUROPAN/AMERICAN PEOPLES!!!”

While that last point is not bad in itself, it can turn really awkward when those “peoples” never move beyond yet another set of stupid and invalid (“exotic!!!111!”) stereotypes.

Exploring ignorance, racism and the fall of empires

I intend to take on certain aspects of racism. One is the dumbing down it causes and is the effect of. The main starting point is that racism itself stems from and starts with ignorance. To allow racism you need to dumb down people and their thinking. Create black and white modes of thinking. Create modes of exclusive thinking where “A can never be B”.

What is happening in Greece with the Golden Dawn is one trigger for this. See: “How Golden Dawn is nurturing the next generation“.

The idea is that when an empire falls, racism and nationalism is one of the “patches” to deal with the lack of any other model to “feel good when pride is broken”.

Another aspect is the fear of “becoming the minority” as what gives right-wing parties in the Netherlands seats in Parliament. “BLA BLA ARE COMING TO TAKE OVER [bla bla something] AND SOON WE WILL [bla bla bla more nonsense]!!??!”. The thing is: this reflects only one thing to me: the cowardice bully who fears that others will do what he/she did to them. The eye of the beholder. Projection of their own personality, mentality and thinking patterns. I will not go into my despise on this.

The whole question of “pride” and “standing on the losing side” is one to examine closely and I will try to find some relevant angles for “The moon who loves–” that make sense.

Why I should not do this

Find out the 1.000.000 things wrong in this picture

Find out the 6.000.000.000 things  that are wrong within this picture.

Look at this advertismenet. Just look at it.

Look!

A rapping black bull. A girl-cow without an udder. A “Japanese” looking martial arts cow/bull? A Swedish cook? Human eyes in the red cow. How “inclusive!” Way to go, La Vache qui rit! Not racist or showing how ignorantly stupid your people — protecting your brand from any stupid stupidness — are at all.

If I am an idiot and/or a crappy writer or do a sloppy job, this entire thing will probably blow up in my face. (Rubs hands, wraps up sleeves, starts writing).

Additional

I was wondering if I would let the third character be Dutch. After collecting a set of cultural stereotypes from a well informed source (E.) I decided to go for it. Here is the list.

The Dutch

Awesome in:

  1. Flowers / flower arrangements
  2. Plants / Eugenetics
  3. Graphic design
  4. Interior design
  5. Gezellig
  6. Tolerance / rules / absence of corruption: you outsmarted mafia with governmental overtaking of prostitution and drugs
  7. Fresh attitude to allochtonen / feeling welcome
  8. Canals / water works / engineering/polders/renewable energy
  9. Drugs / attitude smart / overriding mafia / oversmarting the mafia
  10. Speaks language makes the same grammar mistake an american native would
  11. Beautiful white blonde blue eyes tall
  12. Liberal attitude to sex / a little bit gay guys and sassy whorish the girls
  13. Bikes / greenness
  14. Good with money. Wealthy country. Rich.

Less nice:

  1. Language dutch is not a language, it’s a throat disease
  2. No manners / blunt / toothpick in public / picking nose/barbarians (no Englishmen and no continental basically)
  3. Can not cook / Traditional food is horrid.
  4. Nordic decay – woman before 25 beautiful. After 25 ugly dykes. Cannot tell woman from husbands.
  5. Moirals like commune of hippies
  6. Unable to dress properly. No such thing as Dutch men with proper suit. No sense of fashion. Always cold
  7. No sense of family. No respect for family values. Kids outside curb young. No feelings of gratitude of parents. Godless. Horrid language / uncivilized. Is throat deciease.
  8. Cheap-ass. Do not share money, do not make gifts. Like Portugese, Scottish, from Liguria
  9. Euthanasia. Kill the sick.

I am going to have a lot of fun.

Fragments: A song for the girl who attempted suicide

Earlier today I wrote two posts. They helped me getting closer to the anger in this part.

I needed an end to part 3 of the book that lands it properly. That shows something of the gritty and nasty world that is the background of “Dreams”. This is the first half of that end.

Fragments: A song for the girl who attempted suicide

[Part of the end of chapter 20 and end of Part 3 of “Dreams” — first draft]

The lights went on. Focused on Maroun.

“I have a story for you,” he said, smiling. Sweating.

“Whether you are poor or a poser pretending to be poor.”

He pointed at some people on the side, close to me.

“Yeah. Talking about you, assholes,” walking in their direction. Putting lights on them. “In the next ten minutes you will show me some of your real love, or I will kick you out personally. And don’t think I am kidding here.”

He jumped up, came down, jumped up again, then walked back to center stage.

“Yesterday a good friend of mine tried to commit suicide. For all good reasons. She came to me the day before to ask for my fucking permission. I said: that is OK girl, go if you want to. But do it good.”

He looked at the people down below him. Caught my eyes as he did.

“The thing is: her fucking wearable does not allow her to do so. Her fucking shrink does not allow her to do so. Her fucking parents do not give a shit. I care, but I know that she is damaged beyond repair. The problem is that she once was a fucking Christian, connected to one of those fucking sects full of those fucking creeps who smile at you but want to see your face off the streets as soon as possible. Who look at your fucking coats with your fucking labels and logo’s and wonder what kind of charity they can start to keep your filthy sight from their streets. Who do not allow you to kill your mother when she is already hopelessly beyond saving from the cancer that is rotting her from the inside because that is not God’s plan.” He was shouting the last part.

“I say fuck you.”

He picked up his coat, put it around his shoulders again.

“Christians. Rich people. It was you who allowed this world to be fucked over by the Americans. To make trades with the devil and have this world raped by your pope and your priests and your toxic shit. It was you who crippled our society over and over again. Raping it like your priests did with your choirboys all these centuries. Putting your filthy wrinkly hands all over the smooth skin of society to see how many of you can enter our bung-hole with your dirty fingers while you choke us with your dick deep in our throats.”

He looked down and grinned.

“As you notice, I do not really have a high kind of respect for this shit.”

“She tried and she almost succeeded. She jumped off a building, but the drop did not kill her. And now she is in the hospital. By the mercy of her saviors she will be repaired to the point where she will be able to sit up again and digest food. With all of her body paralyzed.”

He kneeled down, sat down on the edge of the stage. “You see, when I grew up I worked for a season with a sheep-herder in the west of Catalonia, Spain. To commit suicide is quite normal. When a sheep gets sick from tumor or something else, it simply jumps off a cliff or drowns itself. It is the way animals in nature solve their own problems. But for some reason us people think we know better and throw some God in to give it more authority. Where it suits us best. And that god does not allow for suicide. Because that fucking asshole of a god will condemn you even further and kick you into hell as a bonus to all the suffering you already withstood during your life.”

He looked at me again, nodded slowly, smiled.

“You see, that is where I unsubscribed a long time ago. Thing is, her parents will not let go of her as mine did. And so she now will be fucked up, broken and paralyzed from the neck down. This song is for her. I composed it last night.”

He started something that hit me from the first second. And I stood there paralyzed and the tears flowing from my eyes long after that fucker stopped. I had to withdraw outside to recover, crying like I had not done for a long time.

End of fragment

Notes

This is still raw and I have to consider whether I will fix some inconsistencies in the speech or not.

It wraps up some lines I started in Part 3 of the novel: giving it a full and rounded ending before we plunge into Part 4 and chapter 21.

Maroun comes back in the 4th story in the sequence, with his own full story.

Fragments: "When I look at you I see many things"

Editing chapter 18 of “Dreams” (Working title). One of these crazy flows that still work when you re-read them.

Fragment: “When I look at you I see many things”

[Edit. Quite OK]

“When I look at you, I see many things. I see the bones in your body, the bare basics what makes you. I see the organs, see how they perform their function. I see the layers of muscles on top of that. I see the most boring and most generic parts of you. Then I see what moves you. Your mind. What makes the decisions for you. I see the parts that are conditioned. I see the parts that play with that conditioning. I see the parts that fight you. I see the parts that I do not see yet, as big blank spots I still have to discover. I see your potential. I see the things you do not do. Some parts I do not like. Some parts I know will start to bore me. Some parts I know I will start to hate if you do not shift to a next stage. Most parts I do like. The parts I do like, I like more than the parts I do not like. All in all: you are beautiful. From the bare parts to the things you do to hide yourself. So what that you grew up in an environment that has been conditioning you to be a consumer from the birth on? So what that you sabotage yourself on many or most of the cases you would like you did not? When the next ten years are over, you will probably be a much more interesting person then I will ever be. –I like the scars people bear. It means they tried, they challenged, they dared. A perfect skin is boring. A perfect person is boring. You need the challenges. The falls, the mistakes, the fuckups. Your mind is beautiful. You are daring, my love. And more important, you are completely sane. You might be one of the most balanced of all the crazy people I have met in a long time. You take a challenge, fall down, then take that and use it to develop yourself further. Just trust that process.”

End of fragment

Fragments: Scars

In “The decline of Europe“, a series of six SF stories I am working on, Europe is in an IP-lockdown since 2020. Each of the six stories I am working on is about 40.000 words. This fragment is from “Dreams” (working title). “Dreams” is the story of Isabelle, from 2035 to 2061. It provides one of six viewpoints on that Europe.

From time to time I paste a specific fragment I have been working on and that pleased me for one reason or another. This is one of these fragments.

Short

I nailed something in this new piece. A part on the character of Abayomi I had not hit before.

This new writing happened because I left this note behind several months ago: “[bridge needed, elaborate France visit, add 4000 words]”.

The fragment is part of a long story with the working title “Dreams” (that grew into a novel of over 100.000 words) that is the third in the “Decline of Europe” series.

Fragments: Scars

This is the second day Abayomi is in Paris. She and Isabelle had kind of a fight the day before related to identity, love, being worth of love and fear of not being worthy at all.

[Part of chapter 16. First version]

“When I look at the future, when I look at the simulations, the way they branch and give me all the different possibilities, too many end up without you. Next week. Next year. Next decade.”

I saw the tears come up in her eyes.

“I want you, Isabelle. The idea of losing you hurts me.”

“Why?”

“For your humanness,” she said. “For who you are, for who you can become. For that deep spark inside of you. That deep fire that can not be killed. Can only be killed by death itself.”

“I will never be like you,” I said. “I will never have that same thing inside of me. Never reach this full integration.”

“Don’t say never,” she said.

“Don’t give me that false hope,” I said. “I tried.”

“I know.”

She moved her coffee over the table, in my direction.

“Don’t be blinded by what you do not have,” she said. “To have this system inside of myself does not change that much to who I am.”

“I think it does,” I said.

She shook her head. Then pointed at her head.

“This is what makes me. Not this.”

She pointed at her chest, moved down, indicating the system that ran through her bones.

“Enakshi Tharoor understood this aspect of humanity maybe better than anyone in her time. While others were having nerd-gasms over the possibilities of the hardware and the software, she looked at the human aspects of it. The cultural aspects. The agents in human culture that promote change or not. She took one simple question: ‘how is it that regardless of technical innovation people still use those inventions for the very same basic human expressions? Vanity, showing themselves, finding others, finding love. How is it that hardly anyone mines all that increasingly raw power to improve the world around them? Why all this self-centered bullshit?”

She drank from her coffee.

“She cracked part of it and laid down the basis for a radical change in Saudi Arabia. She, with her partner Karim, created a foundation of systems that provided immediate feedback on the consequences of personal deed. The consequences of improvements, of decay. The results of cooperation.”

She put the cup down, looked at me with her bright green eyes.

“It is not the machines, Isabelle, it is the spirit. The mind. It is the mind that makes all the difference. It is the collective mind that creates the change.”

“Did she leak the data?”

Abayomi shrugged.

“Maybe. Maybe not. She could have. She probably would have if it had been possible. And it is possible she did.”

She looked down.

“I met her once, ten years ago.” Then she looked up at me. “She is a very smart woman. A very smart and dangerous and vain person. She has no stopping-point. She will betray you when it suits her. It is something not many people will admit. As she is a hero to many.”

I looked aside when the door of the small boulancherie opened and closed again, bringing cold air in.

“She cracked it. And the secret is here.” Aboyami pointed at my head, touched my forehead. “Ten percent of ten percent of tent percent. A mix of qualities randomly spread over the population. I am gay. I also like the occasional penis. I am smart in some senses but also stupid in other senses. Ten percent of ten percent of ten percent of ten percent. The more qualities you want to see combined in one person, the smaller the odds become. And so you will find a lot of people with a little bit of anything and only a few with a lot of something. You will find a lot of smart people but only a few that match your interests. Software does not change that. Culture does not change that. Genetic manipulation might. Genetic selection might. And some countries are doing that right now. Taking this whole accelerated evolution one step further. But the random aspects remain. The human part of us remains. There is no single route, no single path to move over. There are many.”

She touched my face again, this time touching my temple with the flat of her left hand, my forehead with her thumb.

“It is here. It is here where we are the same. Where we are similar. Where the odds come together and we match. Where I find all these treasures that make you worth to love. Where I find all these riches that allow you to love me with all you have.”

Her eyes had become moist again.

“I can not turn back time and kidnap your from this culture. I can not wipe your mind and replace your past with something else. And I think I would never want to, Isabelle. With all your fears and all your misconceptions you are perfectly flawed. Like me. Like I am perfectly flawed.”

She showed me the scars on her arm. The jagged lines that created surrounded the patches of slightly different skin.

“These are just some of my scars,” she said. “Just one of many. One of many from my past, one of many reflected in my mind. My background did not prevent me from feeling hurt as a child, from feeling abandoned and scared and misunderstood. My people, my family gave me all the love they had and still I rejected them. They never stopped loving me and I never stopped loving them. But I simply did not fit in. I am one of those ten percent of ten percent of ten percent that does not fit within that society. And that hurt a lot in the past.”

End of fragment

Notes

Several things do and no not happen in this fragment and chapter.

  1. Enakshi Tharoor — Anakshi Tharoor is a central character in the series of stories “Dreams” is part of. Think of Nikolay Tesla. Think of something pivotal like Alternate Current and the invention of radar. But then in the shape of a woman who is relentless, changed the world when she was 23 and — possibly — even changed that world more by leaking all research-data from that project to the world. Enabling that world to break through to the other side. To what you might call “the singularity” but not how Kurtzweil envisions it.
  2. The scars — I show them here explicitly through Abayomi, for the first time in the story. Yes I mention them via the eyes of Isabelle three times before that, but here Abayomi links them explicitly to her own past.
  3. The untold story — Later in this story, “Dreams”, where it merges with another version in a separate long story from the point of view of Abayomi (called “Limiters”) she will tell and show how she got them. This new scene here is crucial to land that later moment deep.
  4. Fuck technology — Technology is not the differentiatiator  Culture is. The mind is. That I use sticks to achieve a specific goal does not make me less. It simply means I do not have the right tools yet. The mind defines whether a person is really beautiful or not.
  5. Culture/personal freedom — Culture can be backward. Culture can be damaging. Culture can be a prison. Culture is also fluid. Change your mind, get rid of the parts of your culture that block you and you can become a bit more liberated. Freedom is possible for everyone.

Where the previous scene/fragment: “Declaration of love” started this concept of culture and personal freedom, here, in this fragment, I land it a bit more.

“Dreams” is about this. About the role of technology, culture and personal freedom.

Where I was worried about the lack of focus on this aspect, making the story going nowhere, this is now slowly repairing itself in a very natural way. I really love the writing I did above.