Tag Archives: paganism

Liminal Worlds: World Building

Hello again folks!

Have you checked out my recent book, Liminal Worlds? It’s available on Amazon, $2.99 for Kindle, or 14.99 for paperback. Now, if you excuse the plug, it is the world I have built for this book that I want to talk about today.

Call it a little peek into my writing process. When I started writing this book, I knew I wanted to create a “near future” book, with both cyberpunk and solarpunk elements. Some parts of the world would be very gritty, and run by big corporations, and other parts would green, bright, and sustainable.  I also wanted to build a world that would be recognizable to us today, but also far enough in the future that I could take some liberties.

I settled for about the year 2070, and a world that was in transition from a corporate ruled capitalist system, to one a little more sustainable and democratic. So if you don’t mind, I want to talk more about the elements that went into that.

Technology

Obviously, as with any science fiction novel, technology is front and center. There were a lot of technologies I really wanted to play with and explore the implications for a late century world. Renewable Energy is front and center in the world, and makes up about 80% of the total energy demand of the planet. This comes in the forms of wind and solar primarily, but also other forms such as hydro and geothermal power. Each city and country on the planet has the mix that best meets it’s own needs. Some of those needs are even supplied by space based solar power, which is then beamed down to planet.

Other forms of the power on the planet are things like Generation IV nuclear fission, and even nuclear fusion power. These forms of power make up the rest of the power in Liminal Worlds, for load balancing as well as certain high energy projects, such as the Berlin Space Launch.

While I have not explored it in too much depth, outer space is a big part of the world. In order to make outer space accessible, my world is home to a couple of space elevators, and items such as the Berlin Space Launch, which is a modified version of the StarTram concept. It’s basically a ten mile high magnetic lift system, that gives rockets and cargo a boost before they leave the planet.

Electromagnetic technology such as MagLev Trains also make up a big part of my world. Not only are most cars, trucks, and ships some form of electric vehicles, but also high speed trains and aircraft. There is in fact a world circling MagLev train, though this has not been touched on in the book. (Not yet anyways. ) Another concept I deploy is the EMLAR, ElectroMagnetic Launch Assist Rail; which is basically a catapult for short distance aircraft takeoff. The Berlin Space Launch is a much larger version of this.

Beyond energy and transportation, information technology plays a large part in the book too. The ‘Net is a massive information network built up from current forms of cellular and broadband tech, but also nanotechnology as well. The latter is central to the plotline (no spoilers) of the book, and makes the ‘Net of the book vastly more advanced than the internet of today.

Environment

I write a lot about climate change and environmentalism here at this blog, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that those issues are also front and center in my book. As the recent IPCC report states, we have about 12 years to mitigate the worst of climate change.

Yet, my book takes place about 50 years in the future, so where does that leave us? Well, in my world, we as a planet have mitigated the worst of climate change, though it definitely is still a factor in the background. My book is not utopian, and there is plenty of ‘ugly’ still in the background. Some cities adapted well to climate change, others didn’t. Same with regions and countries. Some simply adapted and mitigated better than others.

That doesn’t change the fact that the world has changed in five decades. Globally, humanity has continued to have to deal with the loss of species, pollution, and climate migrations. While on the whole, it is a ‘best case’ scenario, there is still a lot that was messed up, or that still needs attention.

I hope to flesh more of those details out over the coming months with short story writing.

Social/Economic/Politic Systems

What would a future world be without speculation on changes on social, political and economic systems? Liminal Worlds gave me a lot of options to play with some world building. In short, fifty years in the future, I build the world around two big trends.

First, the trend towards the breakdown of hierarchy. This played out in two ways, first there are more Nation-States in the world, though the tend to be smaller and more dependent on others. Also, it ‘broke down’ a lot of larger international organizations, such as the UN, the EU, and the US federal government.

At the same time, there has been a trend towards greater integrations, and more networked relationships between cities, regions and non-state organizations. This has created new alliances and partnerships where old ones have broken down, the most prominent of these in my book is the UN Global Council. The UNGC is basically a union of former countries, states, regions and cities. It creates a quasi-global area of integration.

Creating a future ex-US.

I am still working on a deeper project of mapping out my world, but I wanted to explore some of the ideas I used for the (former) United States.

First, I looked at the map from here;

Which helped me work out the diversity of the US, and identify some possible “fault lines” that might create enough tension to result in breakdown. The 11 US cultures was one was to identify those areas, and what a more broken down US might look like. (Even our current political climate is basically the red areas vs the blue areas on this map.)

I also looked at these two maps from here;

These two maps helped me to even subdivide the US into smaller units, centered around cities as the center of economic activities. As such, this left me with a world with ‘fuzzier’ borders, and less relevant Nation-States as the centers of power.

Another map I drew upon was this one of major US megaregions, which helped to even further refine my ‘core’ areas of narrative. For example, much of the Liminal Worlds takes place in the Great Lakes megaregion, and primarily in Toronto.

I know that was a lot to throw at you all at once, but it is my hope that you enjoyed this exploration of my creative process. Naturally, I invite you to pick up my book, Liminal Worlds, which is available on Amazon. That way, you can see more of the research and work that went into creating that world.

And more importantly, I hope you enjoy the story!

Thanks for reading!

 


Animism and Community

I guess I will start with updates. A great deal is going on right now, and I am not inclined to say anything about most of it. The writing and spiritual work has slowed. Anything beyond the day job really has slowed. There are just other things I have to focus on at the moment.

At the same time, I have not posted a blog in over two weeks. I am behind schedule, so this post is my attempt to hash out something, at least for something to follow up with later.

This post is my own reflections on a piece I read over at patheos. The link is below. I wanted to compare and contrast the author’s view, with my own. I come from an animistic worldview, and to me at least, it is a reasonable explanation of the world and my place in it.

I will start with my scientific disclaimer. I reject wholly the idea that science is the only method to knowledge. Notice I did not say “truth” or “real.” I find that both these things are much more matters of perception than any kind of irrefutable objective fact. What is real and true for one person is not so for another. There are many paths to knowledge, many methods and many ways to understand the world. Science is but one. Don’t get me wrong, I do think science is a good method, but it is not the only one. Science does not have all the answers, and I do not think it ever will. As a method, science is just ill-equipped to handle certain questions.

That being said, Keith Parsons, the author of the article over at Patheos, advocates for a pantheistic worldview. In his own words; “A modern-day paganism would have a pantheistic worldview. Pantheism regards the cosmos itself as the only object commensurate with our capacity for awe and wonder.”

In addition he adds; “Pantheism explicitly rejects any notion of the supernatural or the transcendent, and instead regards the sacred as natural and immanent. It repudiates the idea that there is a non-physical reality “behind” or “beyond” the universe.

Let’s put this another way. Even with all its problems, I turn to wikipedia for a less nuanced definition; “Pantheism is the belief that the universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent God. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god.” I am not saying this represents the view of all pantheists, or even the view of Parsons, I only add it for understanding purposes. I am not a pantheist, so I will not weigh in on such matters. Nor do I wish this post to take any form of straw-man argument.

The truth is that the two philosophies are pretty close, with some differences. I too, generally reject the notion that there is any kind of “supernatural” or “transcendent” entities in the universe. Only because I agree that the sacred is natural and immanent. Spirits are not something that are “out there.” The spiritual is within nature, and so too, are spirits. Parsons says; “Pantheists reject the idea of sacred supernatural persons and instead find the sacred in nature and in the experience of deep connections with other sentient beings.” I would add that such sentient beings are not necessarily physical or even human.

Thus, how I conceive the world is similar to how wikipedia puts it; “Animism is the worldview that non-human entities (animals, plants, and inanimate objects or phenomena) possess a spiritual essence.” And more to clarify; “Animism encompasses the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in some other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. Animism thus rejects Cartesian dualism.” As do I, as there is no separation between mind or body, or spirit for that matter.

This really gets to the heart of my own beliefs, and my departure philosophically from Parsons. To me, there is no separation of the physical and the spiritual. My body is as much part of my spirit as my mind. If I were to, say, chop off a finger, that is a variety of spiritual-loss. Same if part of my mind were to malfunction. In short, my conceptions of spirit encompass both the physical as well the spiritual, matter and energy.

In addition, I think that consciousness imbues the world at all levels, from quantum on up. It is then a matter of relations and interconnectedness, the communion of the individual and the collective. As such, just because I think all things have some level of consciousness, does not mean that all such consciousness’ are the same. I am a discrete, bounded consciousness. Same for my wife, as well as my cat on the table.

The little bastard is not supposed to be on the table.

Parsons also says; “It follows that pagans reject the idea of a non-physical spirit, mind, or soul. Souls are needed only if brains are not enough, just as God is needed only if nature is not enough.” Here we disagree once more. It is not at all that my brain is not enough, it is that I am more than just my brain. The world is far more complicated than just what we can sense or measure. Nature is enough certainly, but it is way more complex then just brains and flesh.

That is the real core of my worldview, the interrelation and interconnection of things. The complexity and diversity of things. It helps me to be aware of my place in the great networks of life, as well as to treat other things, even if they are not human, with the respect I would show any conscious, willful being. Because that is exactly what they are. My practice is one of communion and negotiation, of debate and disagreement, and finding common ground and working together on a common goal. That is why community is so important, and that leads me to another point.

Parsons says; “Paganism will be non-hierarchical, non-patriarchal, non-institutional, non-authoritarian, and non-evangelizing. There will be no pagan popes, bishops, ayatollahs, caliphs, or rabbis. It should hardly need saying that pagans will respect total equality of the sexes. Pagan leaders will not have the role of enforcing an orthodoxy or imposing authority of any kind. As with any coherent group, there will be a commonality of belief and perspective among pagans, and these will be reinforced by teaching and example. However, pagan belief will not be frozen into dogma or ossified into a creed. Pagans will not seek converts. Their attitude will be one of total tolerance towards any group or persons similarly willing to tolerate them.”

On these points, I am mostly in agreement. Paganism, in its myriad of forms, in incredibly complex and diverse, an interconnection of cultures and worldviews. I do think authoritative hierarchies would be dangerous to the future of paganism. This is not to say that pagans do not need leaders or specialists, because we do. We need people who have knowledge and experience, and are able to help others grow along whatever path they follow. But such people should be treated more like respected teachers or mentors then absolute authorities. Respect is the key here, not orthodoxy or force.

On the evangelism point, I am also in agreement. It is not our place to make converts. However, we do need to available and have the resources to help and mentor those that come in search or in need of our help. Networks of teachers, leaders and students alike that can help one another. Even teachers need help sometimes, and that is why networks are so important.

So that is where I am going to leave this. Perhaps it will facilitate some discussion on the future of pagan communities, or any other kind of discussion.

Sources/References;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2014/08/18/towards-a-rational-paganism/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism