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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.

 

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.