Friday, October 21, 2016

Parallel Realities: An Easy Way To Fry Your Brain

Altered Image Steve Collis from Melbourne Australia Astronomical Clock

Timeline Jumping and the Mandela Effect

Disclaimer: you’re in no way obligated to believe anything in this post unless, of course, you want to. Then, by all means.

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, Time is never as obedient as you think it should be.

It’s curvy and brain-buckling, changing speeds unexpectedly and never with the right amount of  warning. Time shrinks or expands to fill a space depending upon your mood and the level of engagement you have with what’s going on. That’s why a favorite TV show is over in the blink of an eye, but a dreadful article you have to read for work takes all afternoon.

Time is an enormous tangle of tree roots creating new paths under foot for each step you take. The paths extend eternally and in a quantum number of directions. You can only follow one at a time, unless you have a wide-open consciousness and recognize that you’re a quantum being living in a clay body. And even if could do that, it’d be hard to keep track of where you were, since you’d be existing in multiple realities at once.

Parallel Realities & Nelson Mandela

The parallel reality scenario is a staple of science fiction. It’s a Time Travel/Butterfly Effect/Let’s Kill Hitler/Back to the Future Parts 1 - 3/Flight of the Horse type of story.

Recently, there’s been a new twist on the old tale.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Normalizing Fascism and the Loss of Civil Rights, from Dystopian Novel to Reality

“…The invisible webs of Comus [Communications U.S.], drawn taut and singing with tension as Prowlers policed the roads of the nation, sifting the population man by man through psycho-polling research. They kept the electronic computers humming day and night, straight around the clock.”

Catherine Lucille (C.L.) Moore (1911-1987) wrote those words sixty years ago in her dystopian novel, Doomsday Morning (1957).

The novel is filled with ideas familiar to us today — a militarized police force, domestic surveillance and data collection, routine retina and fingerprint scans, and the shaping of public opinion through controlled media.

A remarkably accurate vision of our world in 2016.

The World of Doomsday Morning is Stagnant

Moore’s novel is placed in the early part of the 21st century. Although we don’t have an exact year, careful hints suggest a date on or near 2003. It’s a sane and stable world, set up by an American dictator, named Andrew Raleigh. Raleigh took power after the “Five Days War.” The war’s name suggests an Atomic War, as it was thought, at that time, that a nuclear exchange would be devastating and quick, leaving a surviving population in shambles but salvageable, at least in part.

“To hold the country safe, Raleigh had had to hold it rigid…The young men and women with new ideas had to be controlled. No matter how high they might test…if they could threaten, even latently, the social order Raleigh and Comus were founded on, then they must never receive training or acquire skills….” 

Our hero is Howard Rohan, a washed-up actor who’s become a Cropper, an indentured  migrant worker dropped to the lowest level of American society. Rohan used to be someone important and the Secretary of Communications remembers him. The government plucks Rohan out of an alcoholic stupor to do a job for them.

To the people of that world, Comus represents stability and safety. There’s food and alcohol available to everyone, as well as housing, although with the Croppers these needs are minimally met.

A police presence is ubiquitous, and so are visual reminders of President Raleigh, who is considered a benign, larger-than-life figure. But Raleigh is old now, and sick. His death is imminent. Will his surveillance state survive him? High-level Comus officials refuse to be thrown under the bus when Raleigh dies, they’ll secure Comus’ future at any cost.

Predictably, there’s an underground movement with plans to bring freedom back to the United States. The rebels have a device called the Anti-Com, which is secretly being built somewhere in California. We don’t learn what the Anti-Com is until the very end of the book, when it blows the country wide open.

Rohan is used by both sides, the government and the rebels. Eventually, he figures out which side he’s really on and that he cares more for freedom than his lost status.

Did Moore have a crystal ball, or what?

In the 1950’s, as today, there are checks and balances in the Western world to prevent the rise of a despotic surveillance state.

Here are two big ones:

·       The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.
o   Article 12 — “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
o   Article 18  “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
o   Article 19  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
o   The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

“The ultimate goal of this provision is to protect people’s right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary governmental intrusions.”

Governments aren’t supposed to intrude upon their citizens’ freedoms, and in the 1950’s people believed this to be true.

Quality science fiction writers, like Moore, speculate on the future. Many times, they’re off-base. But not this time.

Are we living Doomsday Morning?

In this short video, “Who Really Rules The United States," Edward Snowden, discusses his reasons for becoming a government whistleblower. He claims to have seen government programs of mass surveillance and data gathering, conducted by people who were constitutionally-protected.

But Snowden’s not the only one claiming that the government’s monitoring and controlling the people of the United States.

There’s a lot of discussion in the alternative media about clandestine data collection, mainstream media being corporate or governmentally-controlled, terror events which may or may not be false flags, rigged financial markets, and even impending marital law. There’s a great deal of concern about terrorism and civil rights disturbances on American streets, as well as an ever-growing militarized police force. In 2016, we’re seeing an unprecedented presidential campaign which would be funny, if the potential results weren’t so dire.

If the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were thrown out, a media-controlled and manipulated police state might evolve, similar to the one shown in Doomsday Morning.

Stop this bus! I want to get off

At the end of the novel, the Anti-Com is set off by the rebels. The weapon’s clearly meant to be an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or “radioflash” bomb.The Anti-Com immediately disables all communications networks and sets up a resonating feedback loop which  keeps them from functioning, ever after. Everything that uses electricity stops dead, including cars and planes, which fall from the sky.

The rebels have people spread out across the country and are set up to help the shocked and waking citizenry.

Rohan contemplates the future in the last pages of the novel. “A new world lay ahead. All I could be sure of was that it would be a harsh world, full of sweat and bloodshed and uncertainty. But a real world, breathing and alive.”

The artificial controls of Comus are broken and Americans are yanked awake, startlingly free from their Comus-induced, sugar-coated slumbers.

Moore presents a dystopian world that is not appealing, but which we seem to be approaching quickly. All that’s lacking is a limited nuclear exchange and a charismatic president.

I’m not suggesting this in humor but rather, in concern, as there’s also chatter on the internet of World War III between the US and China, or Russia.

Personally, I don’t believe it’ll come to that. But Moore’s book describes a pretty convincing scenario for what might happen if it did.

I'll close with another quote, this one from John Adams, 2nd President of the United States. 

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.”

Think carefully about your rights, no one has the authority to take them from you.

Comments are welcome.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Complex Psychology That Goes Into Winning A War

How many times have you woken up with a catchy tune stuck in your head?

It’s like a phantom itch that drives you mad, at least until you find a way to get rid of it.

We’ve all wondered how these odd tidbits get stuck in our heads and where they might have come from.

One possibility is that they’re put there by subliminal messaging.
Subliminal (adj.) means “below the threshold” referring to what is beneath the level of consciousness.
This refers to the subconscious mind picking up on messages that the conscious mind is unaware of. Allegedly, this type of messaging has been used to insert advertising copy into movies, television, and the social media since 1957 when several messages were inserted into the movie, Picnic.

Subliminal messaging works well as audio-only, too. Behavior modification programs for weight loss have shown an increase in efficacy if audio subliminal messages are used as part of the treatment.1

Pioneering French psychologist, Pierre Janet (1859 –1947) is credited with coining the word, “subconscious.”
He said… “at any given moment…we are aware of only a selected part of all possible sensory perceptions, thoughts, memory elements, feelings, and expectations…. subconsciousness consist[s] of psychological automatism… independent from the central personality….2
What if, that song in our head was deliberately put there — a trivial piece of quick-flashing data stored beneath the level of our conscious mind’s awareness?


Let Them Eat Gingerbread

Certainly author and soon-to-be psychology student, Henry Kuttner (1915 – 1958) thought so when he wrote, Nothing But Gingerbread Left in 1943.

The short story was written in the middle of World War II when the war’s outcome was still uncertain. But Kuttner had an idea about how to win the war…appropriately to a writer…with words…and some subliminal messaging.

The story is contemporary and begins in the home of American Semantics professor, Phil Rutherford.

Rutherford’s correcting papers and is annoyed by his son’s continual repetition of a popular, sing-song, catch-phrase. He starts repeating the mesmeric nonsense himself and confesses to his honor student, Jerry, that this kind of verbal distraction undermines precision and morale.

It occurs to him that the Germans, who are known for their scrupulous concentration, might be also undermined by a semantic distraction.

He and Jerry start writing a specially-prepared German rhyme, set to a popular marching tune. We’re told it takes them months to get it just right but when it’s done, Rutherford sends it to the Jerry’s uncle, a senator in Washington, D.C..

The War Department sends out the tune to all German-speaking channels, just to see what happens.

It spreads like a contagion and infects every German speaker who hears it. The results are humorous, but the underlying threat is real. German speakers start to hallucinate, become forgetful, lose concentration, and in the worst case, commit suicide when they can’t get the song out of their heads. In an attempt to integrate the deadly rhyme, they try to cognize the words…which are simple nonsense, and this makes things even worse for them.

The end of the story is the hoped-for visual treat — Adolph Hitler goose-stepping around his office, madly yelling Rutherford’s silly tune.

Kuttner does a masterful job showing readers how a silly earworm might cause the downfall of a nation.

But could a real population be so semantically lead, and to such lengths?


Following the Lead

Believers in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) would say, yes. They claim a connection between neurological processing, language, and learned behavior that can be used to achieve specific goals.

They also claim that NLP can be used as a effective advertising strategy.

Whether or not you believe in subliminal messaging, neurolinguistic programming, or semantic mind control…you have to wonder how those catchy songs, cute animal meme’s, and silly videos get so stuck in our heads. Today, we say things “go viral” and that’s exactly what the German marching song does in “Nothing But Gingerbread Left.”

In the story, people ask…“what harm can a song do?” And yet, people go mad from repeating it.

Are we at risk for the same thing? Certainly, a minor distraction isn’t all that much of problem. But what if it gets out of hand? We might lose our job, crash the car, or walk out into a stream of traffic.

Advertisers admit to using triggers to get people to buy things. But what else are we getting triggered to do? Could we, like the Germans in the story, be so caught up in a viral message that we miss key details or even act abnormally? We might never know, not without the help of a neutral party from outside the system. And in a world connected through a social media-driven web network…who would that be?

I’m not sure I have that answer…do you?

Comments are welcome.

Photo is an altered Wikipedia Commons image showing radio operators at Mareeba, July, 1944.
Nothing But Gingerbread Left first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction, January 1943.

Here is an excellent video on the difference between the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious minds.

[1] Silverman, L.H., Martin, A., Ungaro, R., and Mendelsohn, E. “Effect of Subliminal Stimulation of Symbiotic Fantasies on Behavior Modification Treatment of Obesity.” Clinical Psychology: Vol 46(3), Jun 1978, p.p. 432-441.

[2] Van Der Hart, Onno and Rutger Horst, “The Dissociation Theory of Pierre Janet,” Journal of Traumatic Stress” Vol 2, No. 4, 1989.


Subliminal” Advertising,”  by William M. O’Barr

Subliminal Messages: How They Work and How They Affect Us.

The Shocking Drink And Incredible Coke History Of Subliminal Advertising,”  by Dylan Love

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Calling All Retro-Future Fans!

If you have stumbled upon this page…through chance or Blogger’s “NEXT BLOG” function…and like what you see…then you can continue to follow it at, my own website.

I hope you do…but this blog’s not for everyone.

Just people who like:
  • TIME

 …and, of course, the Pulp Visionaries from the early to mid-20C.

Who are these Pulp Visionaries anyway?

I’m talking about science fiction writers like Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Murray Leinster, Fredric Brown, E.E. Doc Smith, L. Sprague De Camp and others who created a legacy of speculative science fiction that inspired generations. Writers who told stories that gave us glimpses into a remarkably accurate future. Many of these writers, and certainly their stories, have been long forgotten. I dredge them up and bring them forward…for your consideration.

As I said before…this blog isn’t for everyone. But if you wonder about repeating cycles of trends in culture and society or, you're curious how something written back in the 1930’s or 40’s can predict science or culture in 2016…then you’ve parked at the right place.

Check out the posts…see what you think, leave comments.

It’s all good.

Most of all…have fun! Because that’s what it’s really all about.


Sara (Pulp Fiction historian)

P.S. I think I’ve ALMOST read through all of Henry Kuttner’s EXTENSIVE list of works. The ones I haven’t read, I just haven’t been able to get my hands on because some stories were only published ONCE in a pulp magazine back in the day and also because Kuttner and Moore used EIGHTEEN pseudonyms! (And yes! I DO know about the Kuttner / Barnes collaborations as Kelvin Kent and as Arthur K. Barnes.)
  1.  Edward J. Bellin
  2. Paul Edmonds
  3. Noel Gardner
  4. Will Garth
  5. James Hall
  6. Keith Hammond
  7. Hudson Hastings
  8. Peter Horn
  9. Kelvin Kent
  10. Robert O. Kenyon
  11. H. Kuttner
  12. Henry Kuttner, Jr.
  13. C. H. Liddell
  14. Scott Morgan
  15. Lawrence O'Donnell
  16. Lewis Padgett
  17. Woodrow Wilson Smith
  18. Charles Stoddard
P.P.S. And about Kuttner’s horror writing…it’s pretty darned scary so I haven’t read ALL of that yet either. But I will…eventually, I will.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Artificial Intelligence 38 Years Before Skynet

by Sara Light-Waller

If you think artificial intelligence, computer networking, and online marketplaces are new, think again. Seventy years ago, Americans were talking about them in their living rooms and around dining tables. How do I know? Because two pulp-era stories, one from 1946 and the other from 1950, describe amazingly-modern technology in great detail. Both tales are cautionary, and each takes a different view of sophisticated, thinking machines.

Logical Joe

In A Logic Named Joe (1946) by Will F. Jenkins (a.k.a. William Fitzgerald Jenkins, a.k.a. Murray Leinster (1896-1975)), computers, or logics, are remarkably similar to our own. These tabletop machines access personal data, interact over a global network, have a central control hub much like a dedicated server, are used for video-calling, watching (and recording) TV programs, online shopping, printing, and many other business-related services.

How did Jenkins guess the future with such accuracy? By 1946 when Logic was published, IBM had already been around for several decades. True, they weren’t building massive number crunchers yet, but their tabulating equipment was already processing huge amounts of data. Speculating logically, Jenkins could well guess that machines would get more sophisticated and smarter over time.

The protagonist of A Logic Named Joe is a computer technician, and the story is told in retrospect though his eyes. He tells readers that he’s hidden away this particular logic in his basement and that he could use it to make a million bucks, but that he won’t because the machine’s much too dangerous. He also explains that he’s saved civilization, and that maybe the best thing to do is destroy the machine after all.

The logics aren’t meant to be self-aware, but something’s gone wrong with “Joe” during construction and he gains nascent consciousness. After purchase, Joe starts to learn with a driving ambition. He improves not only himself but all the other machines connected to the central server. The machines start giving out previously-censored information: advice on murder, how to build advanced weaponry, how to make designer drugs…all sorts of fun things. Then logics begin collecting personal data on a massive scale and sharing it globally. What a nightmare! As the world goes from bad to worse, the narrator, who's now on the run from a murdering ex-girlfriend, figures out which computer is causing the problem and deactives it. He has no qualms about doing this because no one wants a world run by inhumane, thinking machines.

A Not-So Romantic Idyll

A different scenario takes place in Honeymoon in Hell (1950) by Fredric Brown. In it, building-sized cybernetic “calculators” work on the big problems — mainly how to keep the “Eastern Alliance” (a thinly-veiled USSR) from heating up the cold war. The ex-astronaut hero, Ray, is one of an elite group of operatives feeding the machine data so it can calculate the big answers. (Apparently, back in the day, data entry for the government was a really BIG deal.) The questions suddenly become harder when the world-wide male birth rate drops to zero. With all countries on alert, the big calculator nicknamed, Junior,” tries to solve the problem. Along the way, he starts giving out personal information to Ray about future events. This is puzzling, but Ray’s not overly concerned, after all, Junior doesn’t think…he just tabulates and so can’t be anything but benign and helpful.

The top brass have come to the opinion that the drop in the male birth rate is due to extraterrestrial interference. The President picks out Ray for a special assignment. He’s to make a trip to the moon (they have one-man rockets the size of coffins and Ray’s already made a couple of trips) and rendezvous with an female Eastern Alliance operative, and well…that’s were the honeymoon part comes in. They’ll be the first couple to try and conceive boy children on the Moon, presumably out of range of whatever is causing the problems on Earth.

Ray agrees (after he sees how beautiful Anna is), they get married by visiphone, and off they go, moonward. The destination is a crater called “Hell” where they’ll set up camp for two weeks until the sun is down past the edge of the crater and it gets really, really cold. Then they’ll return to their respective countries, hopefully with Anna pregnant. Everything goes fine until the ET’s show up and take Ray and Anna hostage. Thirteen days pass and the two manage to escape the hostile space ship, fleeing the Moon in their personal rockets.

Back on Earth, baby boys start being born again, suddenly and without explanation. Ray, now officially married to Anna but not really knowing her at all, wants to forget the entire episode. He goes back to work crunching numbers and immediately starts daydreaming about some pretty sexy times with Anna that he doesn’t actually remember having. But, of course, they aren’t daydreams, just his memory returning. When Ray asks Junior about this, the truth comes out at last. Everything…and I mean, everything, from the decimated male birth rate, to the top brass’s opinions about ET interference, to Ray being picked as male-baby maker, the entire ET’s hostage situation (which was post-hypnotic suggestion to Ray and Anna), all of it was part of Junior’s plans. The computer decided, based on a thorough analysis of the world political situation, that the only way humanity could survive a cold war was to unify against an alien threat. So he manipulates the entire world to save it. When asked how Junior got the Eastern Alliance to agree, the computer explains that their big number cruncher would come to the same logical conclusions that he did and they ended up working on the same problem in the same way.

Ray should been horrified by this disclosure, but he isn’t. Instead, he’s so dumbfoundedly love-struck by his memories of Anna and his now-recalled honeymoon, that he lets it all slide. As long as he and his sexy new wife can be together, he doesn’t really care that Junior has taken over world affairs.

Changing Times

There are four years in between “A Logic Named Joe” and “Honeymoon in Hell.” The authors are different, true, but prevailing attitudes also seem to have shifted. In 1946’s “Logic” the idea of computers administrating mankind was not to be tolerated, even for a fortune. But in 1950, it was alright, at least as long as you got a happy ending out of it. Of course, this is a literary allusion to the American Dream as envisioned in the post-World War II decade. But the underlying thought is plenty creepy.

Would you give over your personal sovereignty for a nice house, a hot spouse, and all the trimmings? For many today it might be a fair trade-off, especially considering current economic conditions. But that’s a pretty slippery slope, from there it’s just a few short steps to Terminator’s Skynet…and we all know how that ends.

Comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell said, Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy. Logic and Honeymoon demonstrate this adage quite capably. In each story computers are trying to SAVE mankind but their agendas are heartlessly rational, and they assume, with logical arrogance, that humanity needs saving and…rulership.

As modern technology advances, we may all be called upon to answer these questions for ourselves. Would you allow a computer to rule the world if it took away all your cares?

Comments are welcome.

Check out the stories for yourself and let me know what you think.
  • Here’s a free PDF of A Logic Named Joe 
  • Here’s a Dimension X radio-play version of A Logic Named Joe. (Note – they’ve changed up the story somewhat in the radio-play.)
  • Here’s a free copy of Honeymoon in Hell, from the Internet Archive (it’s the featured story in the November, 1950 edition of Galaxy magazine. That’s Anna and Ray on the cover.)