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INFINITE GAMES, INFINITE HOPES

I have always loved Geoffrey Chaucer’s send off to Troilus and Criseyde:  “Go, lytl book, go, litel myn tragedye” (go little book, go my little tragedy).  I intone his hail and farewell every time  put a manuscript in the mail or, more recently, hit the  send button which delivers it to my publisher in an internet instant.  It is my affectionate send off for a book I have spent years writing, my fervent prayer that out there upon the deeps of the reading world someone will enjoy this bread I am casting upon the waters.

And so, this week, I am sending The Battle for the Black Fen,  the last of my four-volume eco-fiction series that I have spent twenty years writing, out into the world.  Everything that I have ever longed for – love, friendship, family fellowship,  a life led in harmony with community and nature, human beings working together for the good of our beloved planet – is in my Infinite Games novels.  Here, in the final novel to the series, it all comes down to one decisive conflict between my self-sustaining Marshlanders and greedy developers.

Years ago, apropos of  white writers using tribal images and spiritual practice in our work, my Native American students challenged me: “Don’t you have some nice Euro-pagan ancestors you can write about instead of us?”   That was when the Fen Tigers,  marsh dwellers in the east of England who fought for three hundred years to keep their wetlands from drainage by “Merchant Adventures” and who probably  included some of my  Lincolnshire ancestors, became my inspiration.

It is all about the  question of whether we can build the worlds we long for or whether we will be crushed at last by greed and environmental degradation.

Can we abandon our finite games between winners and losers, between people with power and people they have power over? Is there time, before the demise of the human species or of even our entire planet,  to engage joyfully together in infinite games where everyone wins and we all share power amongst us?

In the Metro Detroit Area, you can buy your copy of The Battle for the Black Fen at the Paper Trail Books, 414 South Washington in Royal Oak.  All four volumes are available at Amazon.com.

 

Midsummer, and the Living is Exciting

By this time most summers, I expect my living to be easy – keeping up with my correspondence, a blog here and there, short pieces of nature writing to accompany lots of time out of doors – but this summer, things are more exciting than usual.

With the help of my (very) patient publisher, Mary Woodbury of Moon Willow Press in Canada, I am doing the final proofreading of The Battle For the Black Fen, the last novel of my eco-fiction series.  Our publication date is August, so I have kept my eyes on my computer screen to find every lost comma, confusing bit of dialogue, and typo.

A couple of tips I have picked up while proofing: in dialogue, always state who is speaking.  Silly me, I figured that if I know who it was, my reader must get it too; similarly, if I start with “Clare thought” and have her musing away about other characters besides herself I had better bring her name in again, even in the same paragraph. And those pesky quotation marks that seem to have vanished into thin air, not to mention the commas and periods before the ends of the quotations…..needless to say, my eyes have been glued to the page.

I never like to dwell in my brain for days on end,   so I have been to my Betsie River cabin a couple of times, and every visit the temperature has plunged to 50 degrees or lower during the (summer?) nights. The wood turtle laid her eggs in mid June; now that other people appreciate my nature observations,  I did my duty as a “citizen scientist”  by reporting her to the Michigan turtle authorities.

By the end of June, tiny fry have hatched and flit about in the warmer shallows, and les becs scies, saw-toothed ducks (mergansers) that give the river its name, are busy and active.

And so are the beaver. Last winter they didn’t fell whole stands of slender trees but were hungry enough to chew completely around the trunk of a sturdy hardwood:


 

This circular gnawing serves two purposes:  the beaver get to eat the inner bark that they can reach and, at the same time, fell the tree so that they can eat the rest. I have never seen them drag a tree this heavy into a dam. It might be possible, but I think mine are bank beaver, only stripping such larger trees for nourishment.

So I let the babble and ripple of the river rest my mind for a while, strengthening my spirit for one last edit of my novel.

Every day of this daunting political year, my fictional battle between a self-sustaining nature-loving people and cruel enemies greedy for wealth and self-aggrandizement seems less a fictional plot than a grim reality. We are trapped in a finite game of victory and defeat; only if we give up on this hoary and outdated paradigm will any of us – enemies and friends alike –  survive. Are we strong enough, smart enough, open-minded enough, resilient enough to abandon the utter destruction of win/lose, you-or-me thinking for an infinite victory where everyone wins, nobody loses, so that we can enter at last the worlds we long for?

 

 

 

 

THE ROAD TO BEAVER MILL

On the front page of my web site I described Bethany leaping off a cliff into a gale. With the publication of the third volume in my Infinite Games Series, The Road to Beaver Mill, you can find out what happens next.
While eleven year old Bethany is excited and enthusiastic about soaring through the wind on a winged pony, her mother is purely terrified. Nonetheless, Clare must ride into the storm while the rest of the Marshlanders leave their refuge on Cedar Haven to climb the perilous Cliffs of Doom. It is time to call their allies to battle lest their enemies succeed in entirely draining their marshlands.
The problem is that everyone knows about these plans but Bethany, who is too stubborn and self-willed to trust with such important secrets. She visits her friend Ben’s Western Fisher folk, who want nothing to do with her; her own Eastern Fisher folk cousins welcome her warmly but she runs away from them too, stowing away on a ship heading for the dangerous merchant city of Brent.
My new novel is a Kindle Select Book, available here from Amazon.com .

 

 

 

 

Anarcho-Primitivism??

This picture shows the island villages of the Ma’dan, Iraqi fisher-hunter-gatherers whose self-sufficient wetlands Saddam Hussein drained.

Kenneth Posner’s “The Long Brown Path: The Cry of the Anarcho-Primitivists,” considers the idea that present-day social domination, enhanced by modern technology, is so destructive that we should return to pre-agricultural community governance.*

Consider the philosopher and writer John Zerzan,” he writes, “a self-proclaimed anarchist and primitivist, who criticizes industrial mass society as inherently oppressive and warns us that technology is leading humanity into an increasingly alienated existence, at the same time that it threatens to destroy the natural environment .”

John Zerzan
Portrait of John Zerzan by Bata Nesah, Belgrade, 2013 (caption)

As an anarchist, Zerzan would like to see a society that is free of ‘all forms of domination,’ and as a primitivist, his model for authentic, intimate existence is the ‘face to face communities’ of our hunter gatherer ancestors, who prior to agriculture, operated in small bands without specialization of labor or hierarchy.”

 

I am by no means as cheerful as Zerzan about our hunter gatherer ancestors, who engaged neighboring communities in wars to the death even while practicing altruism amongst themselves. Nor am I convinced that either agriculture or technology is a bad thing in and of itself. In Cli-Fi and Solarpunk, for example, as in other genres of science fiction, technology is value-neutral. It is we human beings who decide how to use it.

Any of us who survived the anarchic idealism of the 1960s will remember how the absence of rules led to the “tyranny of unstructuralism” when some blowhard rose quickly out of the group to order us all  around.

Although the invented world of my Infinite Games series is pre-modern, my characters are engaged in social, agricultural, and technological experiments. Their leaders are chosen by popular acclaim, never dominate, and govern gender equal communities where decisions are reached by consensus. My Marshlanders are not against their enemy’s drainage projects as such; they are opposed to the inhumane and greedy means and ends to which the technology is put. At Dunlin, my farmer character wins high praise for his ditching and draining inventions as well as for his soil improvement and seed cultivation. When technology oppresses my city dwellers, they replace their oligarchs but not the looms, working out ways to reform the weaving trade on more ethical lines.

I believe that we have evolved since our primitive days, not only in our governance and tools  but in human consciousness itself. Just consider Steven Pinker’s data in The Better Angels of Our Nature, documenting the diminution of violence on a world-wide basis. Where we were once devoted to finite games with win/lose and winner-take-all rules of play, our hearts are opening to  “infinite games”  with their inclusiveness and win/win outcomes where “we laugh not at what has surprisingly become impossible for others, but at what has surprisingly come to be possible with others.” **

 

*brought to my attention by Joe Follansbee , a thoughtful blogger concerned with how writers create speculative fiction in the “strange new climate” we inhabit.

** not to mention the wonderful new P2P paradigms for post-Capitalist societies.