Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"Universal Motherboard or What do you mean, Canceled?!"
Or maybe I should title this "Motherboard of the Universe." Or possibly "As Above, So Below."
"Motherboard" seems an apt magickal metaphor for something as abstract and non-existent as the Fiction Delivery System. This System gets upgraded as often as a Motherboard and has a "short product cycle" just like motherboards.
Since the general release of Windows95, there has been a wild scurry to upgrade computers many of which still can't run Win95 at full blast with their current cpu chips and slow com ports. And so, after spending vast sums on memory simms and d-ram chips, one installs a new motherboard with new, faster memory and cpu.
So by now, many readers of this column have gone through the ceremonial initiation ritual of replacing their motherboards. You will have noticed there are a bunch of little things stuck to the top of a motherboard, each with secret runes engraved. However, the really important parts of the board are on the bottom and embedded, embossed, or stamped inside the board. This engraved pattern is the true miracle of modern electronics. This invisible microcircuitry is what allows all the stuff stuck to the top of the board to communicate and thus compute. And inside each of the lumps stuck to the top of the board there's even more microcircuitry hidden. If you think about it, the structure of a motherboard is very much like the Tree of Life.
This "electron delivery system" stamped invisibly to the underside of the motherboard is also very much like the "fiction delivery system" that is currently being upgraded to handle new demands such as the Internet.
A fiction consumer deals with books or TV shows and up until now has accepted a passive role just as the homeless in a soup-kitchen line take whatever they can get.
For nearly thirty years now, armies of fans have been crafting and beta-testing an upgrade to the Fiction Delivery System's Operating System and right at the end of 1995, that new operating system was released in its 1.0 version.
Although I have been involved in this development for thirty years, I was shocked delighted but shocked. Before I knew it, I was hip deep in upgrading my life. Now I have a story to tell you.
Ah, I see a lot of my readers scratching their heads, wondering what happened thirty years ago that set off vast changes which many people haven't lived long enough to have noticed as change.
What happened thirty years ago was Star Trek. And in very short order, it will have been thirty years since I started work on the book about why people loved that show so much they refused to let it die even after The Powers That Be canceled it the Bantam paperback, Star Trek Lives!
It took five years to research and write that book and much longer to get ST back on the air. The book was published in 1975 and went eight printings. But I never slacked off my involvement in fan activities nor my personal commitment to the proposition, "But They Can't Do That To Us!"
And so it happened that I was on hand for the launch of the new Fiction Delivery System's Operating System because, in pursuit of the cutting edge of science fiction for this column, I had signed onto the Forever Knight Listserve which I reviewed in detail for you in '95. You can view or download that review at this magazine's Web Site http://www.lightworks.com under The Monthly Aspectarian, SF Reviews.
A Listserve is an e-mail device. A giant computer somewhere on the Internet is programmed with a list of people to copy in on any e-mail list members send to the computer. Anyone on the list can "post" to the list by sending an e-mail item to the computer. And in return, that person gets all the e-mail posted to that computer's List. The computer "serves" the List like the butler serves soup. Sign-on information for the Forever Knight listserve is in the review.
The Forever Knight List computer sent me a general post almost the moment that Forever Knight's cancellation became final. Moments later, there was a torrent of postings stinging with shock and then instant mobilization of all Talents on the List.
I watched chaos crystallize into order faster than I could read the postings. It was beautiful, like watching water freeze into a snowflake, and I knew there was an invisible pattern behind it all, a matrix like a motherboard ready to receive the chips that fit into the empty sockets on the top of the board.
And I realized that what was happening before my eyes was almost more important than Forever Knight itself if such a thing is possible.
Readers of this column know how I rave about my favorite vampire-cop and what the themes of this show indicate regarding hope for humanity in general. I use the same effusive language to discuss Forever Knight, Highlander and Alien Nation as I do when discussing Star Trek in any of its incarnations especially Voyager. These are not just television shows they are manifestations of an astral plane phenomenon the "underside" of our "motherboard."
During the weeks that the SOS (Save Our Show) drive crystallized on the FK List, I was (by total coincidence, as I'm sure readers of this magazine will agree) furiously writing a chapter for a forthcoming hardcover book from St. Martin's Press called The Millennial Prophecies by Sharon Jarvis. My contributed chapter is called "Prophecy In Theory and Practice" and involves the use of Kabbalah and astrology to examine a set of prophecies focused on the year 2000. Meanwhile, the other half of my mind was on this column which was overdue for delivery. And about that time, I was informed by the programming department at the sf convention Arisia in Boston over MLK's birthday weekend that I would be teaching at a Tarot Workshop and on a Tarot panel as well as my usual sf/f panels one of which was on "The Future of Publishing", which I was to moderate.
When the list erupted with the news of cancellation, I was struggling to explain to mundane, non-magickally trained folks all about As Above; So Below in words of one syllable. Okay, so laugh. But this is what writers do to earn a living. However, the writing job did focus my attention on the underside of the universe, the mechanism that explains why things happen as they do.
So, I saw this crystallizing SOS campaign very differently than others saw it. I saw it as the first real launch of the new Fiction Delivery System.
In three short weeks, the FK fen on the FK List had reached a point that ST fans took three years to reach. With e-mail and Web Sites you don't have to wait two weeks for an answer to a letter, and it doesn't take a week for an all-points bulletin to reach everyone. It only takes seconds. E-mail is superior to phone calls, even with answering machines and voice mail, because the recipient can deal with it when they have time. With a phone call, you're always interrupting something and making the recipient's day less productive. Furthermore, with e-mail, all the recipient has to do to forward the note to someone else is poke a button. The unleashed productivity is staggering.
Productivity wouldn't count for anything, though, if it weren't for the kind of people involved in inter-active television. Yes, I said inter-active. The very thing that huge companies have spent megabucks failing to develop into a commercial reality has already happened hidden on the underside of the motherboard called the Internet.
People watching television have launched entire international social networks based on discussion of and rewriting of their favorite TV shows with alternate universes and crossovers from one TV show's universe to another (Highlander characters on Forever Knight). Those involved in sf/f shows tend to be very high on the educational spectrum and professionally employed in a vast spectrum of different disciplines. In other words, they fit the demographic profile that Star Trek Lives! found among those active fans thirty years ago except that my impression is that these fans today wield more formal degrees than we did then.
Let me introduce you to one of the Forever Knight fans who was the off-site coordinator for the Forever Knight programming at Arisia.
Her name is Rae Montor. She lives on Martha's Vineyard because the air is breathable, but came to Boston in a snow/ice storm for the sake of the FK programming.
She's very typical of the type of person who's interested in Forever Knight whether they be young males just entering college or thirty-something women with two degrees and two kids. For the explanation of how this vast diversity of age and gender crystallizes around a TV show, please consult StarTrekLives! particularly the chapter on The Tailored Effect.
Rae says of herself:
I'm a "Family Therapist" (with or without capital letters). (Although I can do marriage counseling, it's not the primary focus of my work: families are. My M.A. is in Psychology but I don't have a Ph.D., so I'm not a "psychologist", and I don't have an M.D., so I'm not a psychiatrist.)
My primary approach is systems-oriented and that means, in this context, exactly what it means anywhere else (e.g., in biology or artificial intelligence). It means that I see the family as a system, in which each family member has a role, part of which role is to maintain balance within the system and that I can easily see patterns of behavior that are handed down like legacies within families from generation to generation.
My major interest in FK is in its consistent addressing of serious issues (e.g., the morality of suicide), its treatment of relationships, and the fact that the central theme of the possibility of spiritual redemption is treated as a potential joint venture between science and faith. Or at least the last of those three. (Vampires, by and large, don't interest me).
Rae Montor has here expressed in a few succinct words the reason why I keep returning this column to the discussion of the current crop of vampire novels especially the ones hidden inside the Romance genre not because of the supernatural or horror elements traditionally a part of this mythos, but because with the advent of "The Vampire As Good Guy" we have a subgenre which is Intimate Adventure and psychologically healthy as well as spiritually invigorating.
Forever Knight and the modern vampire novels are the exact opposite of what "a vampire novel" is thought to be by those who refuse to imbibe this flavor of fiction. Forever Knight is a prime example of Intimate Adventure. And it is not horror any more than my own Sime/Gen universe novels are horror. (for information on my books, see my home page at http://www.lightworks.com inside Connections.)
Intimate Adventure is the term I have coined and discussed at length in this column over the last three years to describe the type of story in which the courage the hero needs is not the sort a soldier needs to face bullets but the sort a real hero needs to face a family member with psychological barriers down, hearing as well as listening. This is the type of interaction Suzette Hayden Elgin discussed in the interview she gave in last month's issue of The Monthly Aspectarian. In that same issue I reviewed her nonfiction book, Genderspeak. Her point is that the two genders do not speak different languages, but rather use different metaphors, and that once that is understood people can communicate without fear of pain. She cites the Schoolroom Metaphor and the Football Metaphor. As a common ground for the next millennium, I am here offering the Motherboard Metaphor.
People have been writing and reading Intimate Adventure (without the label) for decades. It is a genre I first identified around 1970 in Star Trek fanzines. The element that distinguishes Intimate Adventure from Soap Opera or Romance is that the lead character regards emotional experiences with a heroic attitude the same attitude Captain Kirk faced the Horta with. Or the attitude Nick Knight uses to face Natalie especially when he's screwed up badly.
Rae Montor and others involved in interactive Forever Knight have spotted this heroic emotional attitude toward relationships etching a circuit on the flip side of the fiction delivery system motherboard. Meanwhile, they've been beta testing the new operating system for fiction delivery, the Internet, and when FK was threatened with cancellation in December '95, they installed that new motherboard and released the new operating system.
The primary difference between this new Fiction Delivery System and the old is (as with Win95) that the communications channel between elements of the system is wider and thus communication flows faster, allowing color, text, animation, real-time interaction. Win95 uses a 32 bit operating system instead of 16. The Internet-based fiction delivery system doubles the intensity and sensitivity of the system to consumer feedback.
Before the TV Guide issue with the news of cancellation could be printed, people online like Rae Montor had found out about it. While Manhattan and L.A. were closed for holidays and snowstorms, a couple of thousand creative minds went to work. I'm going to insert here a chronicle of what they did (and are still doing) so you can judge whether this is significant or not.
The following is a press release of Friends of Forever Knight with contact information exclusively for the use of the press.
Date: Friday, 19-Jan-96 02:59 PM
From: Cynthia Hoffman / Internet: (email@example.com )
To: Jacqueline Lichtenberg ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Subject: FK Appreciation Week Press Release
Friends of Forever Knight
Post Office Box 30596
Alexandria, VA 22310-9998
For Immediate Release
Annmarie McKee Fitzgerald
Catherine A. Siemann
THE SHOW THAT WOULDN'T DIE Forever Knight Appreciation Week set for January 14 20, 1996
(New York, January 11, 1996) Fans of the television show "Forever Knight," a late night program with a devoted following, will shift their campaign to save the show into high gear during the week of January 14-20, 1996. A variety of activities in honor of the show, its producers, distributors and sponsors are planned.
Sunday, January 14 will kick off the week as the Friends of Forever Knight declare the day to be Sony/TriStar Appreciation Day Nationwide, and show their support of the producers of Forever Knight by spending their money on Sony/TriStar products including seeing a TriStar movie and purchasing Sony electronics.
The Friends will continue to demonstrate their appreciation [materially] by declaring an America On-Line Appreciation Day in honor of the internet service which has welcomed them and promised an expanded Forever Knight site to accommodate their growing numbers: January 15 is the day to log on, have a virtual party in cyber-space, and discover what's available for Forever Knight fans at this growing service.
Other activities include a nationwide Syndicator Appreciation Day on January 16, the first turnover of funds in excess of $5,000 to the Pediatric AIDS Foundation on January 17 (a chosen charity of the show's star, Geraint Wyn Davies), an Overseas Appreciation Day on January 18 and a Sponsor Appreciation Day on January 19.
The weeklong campaign will culminate on Saturday, January 20 with The Friends assembling throughout North America to donate blood to the Red Cross in honor of the cast and crew of Forever Knight.
For more information on the myriad activities planned for this week, as well as ongoing projects in the campaign to keep Forever Knight alive in syndication, Check out the Friends' homepage at: http://members.aol.com/CuznJamiMR/Save ForeverKnight.html or contact any of the above people.
Forever Knight is in trouble; get more information at http://members.aol.com/CuznJamiMR/Save ForeverKnight.html
That's only the official press release folks one of the lumps on the top of the motherboard. Considering how an entire program track appeared out of nothing at the last minute for Arisia which resulted in a number of news stories in the press (those of you who attend sf cons may understand what a feat and miracle that was) I know that the above list of planned events are not pie in the sky fantasy this is reality and it's reality happening.
And that web-site address is important. It's a keystone of what is making this happen so fast. There you can get names, addresses, and projects you can do yourself to get your sentiments across, ways and means of taking an active and interactive role in the Fiction Delivery System. There you will download the program-applications designer kit that goes to the new Fiction Delivery System. You don't have to be just an end-user. You can be a Designer.
Below I'm inserting a rundown of what Rae Montor did that made the FK track at Arisia happen. I'm including names and addresses throughout to convince you that this is real work done by real people, not something I just made up or heard about. This is not a dramatization but rather an understatement. Check this out for yourself. These people really did what they claim in the time-span they claim.
I anticipate your disbelief because all summer '95, I'd been saying at conventions that the world has changed and nobody's noticed yet and I predicted several substantial changes in the fiction delivery system.
People laughed and scoffed even sf fans (and writers) scoffed. Here is proof. What I predicted has happened is happening. 1995 was the year the universe changed. The readers of this magazine are uniquely suited to judge the true occult significance of this set of events, a significance I couldn't discuss in Jarvis's book, The Millennial Prophecies. But those prophecies of doom have been substantially affected by what these FK fans have done are doing. Don't underestimate the power of dreams.
There's more I can't even touch on here. Internet angle, lottery tickets, bouquets of vampire teddy bears to Jon Feltheimer, syndicators and radio and general international contacts and all. The humorous and emphatic creativity of this whole group is a delight to read about for anyone whose favorite tv show has been canceled right after it has been reported to have soared in the ratings.
Also, consider that these people who are doing this are not students of the occult or esoteric. At Arisia I offered a Tarot workshop on how to use the Tarot to interpret what's happening with the FK cancellation and though the room filled with people, nobody in my section had yet heard of the FK cancelllation. So I scrapped the prepared presentation and invented a totally different topic on the spot tailored to that audience.
These people are doing this because a piece of fiction has touched a deeply buried and much starved nerve. The energy they are generating is in fact changing the universe, this world, and the fiction delivery system. The essence of what they've accomplished so far is communication. They are forging communication links between the lumps stuck to the top of the motherboard Producers, TV network executives, advertisers, writers, actors, directors, local stations, local sponsors, and fans.
Star Trek connected the fans with each other, and after more than ten years off the air (except for an animated revival) the studio agreed to make a movie. I was at the premier of that first ST movie where the actors saw it whole and complete for the first time, and at the cocktail party afterwards, I listened to their comments on it.
Gene Roddenberry had invited a large number of us fans who had been active in keeping Trek alive because he knew it was the connecting links between us forged via written-sf-fandom that made it happen.
Studio legal advisors forbid those who work on creating movies or TV from reading story ideas from fans even those that fans offer as freely given. A Web site, however, is anonymously available to anyone who wants to log into it. Anyone who wants to know how fans are reacting to an episode of a show they wrote, directed or starred in can check out the Bulletin Board on that topic on Usenet or surf the Web and there are a number of them who are taking advantage of this avenue. Anything posted on the Web or Net is automatically in public domain unless otherwise copyrighted at least until Congress does something about the electronic copyright laws.
This access to opinion and idea is what I've been referring to for many columns now as "the feedback loop missing from the Fiction Delivery System." Not just how many people liked a show, but why they liked it as to be part of what the fiction creators use to direct future offerings.
1995 marked an inflection point in the development of this feedback loop because of the number of households who own pc's and the number of those with online access.
The speed with which the FK fans have mobilized, the amount and texture of the energy they are raising, the fertility of their imaginations, their demographic profiles, and the responses we see among The Powers That Be ( there's a chance they may fund and make those last few episodes to complete the season largely because of pressure from Germany I said this was world wide!) all indicate that we have indeed reached critical mass. Or put another way, beta testing is over and the new operating system is in general release.
My advice is upgrade your equipment fast. Get online whatever way you can before the world leaves you in the dust. Yes, it's expensive but in '96 you will see prices of usable equipment come down into the range of the average college student's austere budget. Skip your vacation, stop smoking, brown-bag your lunches, and ask for your birthday gift in cash, return soft drink bottles, and don't charge anything on your credit card. You can save enough to be online by '97 if you save, wait and watch those prices.
You may not think a story about Forever Knight fans is an argument for getting online because FK isn't your kind of thing. But the FK part of this story isn't the most important part though to me personally it has vast occult implications the important part is the shape of the way this happened.
Consider Melatonin for example a natural sleep aid the drug companies can't patent. So now the Powers That Be want to get it off the market while labs work on versions they can patent. People interested in the alternative health care options consult actively and interactively online.
Figure Skating fandom networks online. You can sign up for a Torahfax a daily e-mail about the portion of the Bible to read for the day. This coming presidential election is going to happen in a new way because of online connections. The political groups are already organizing online.
Turn over the motherboard and look at the underside. Circuits are being etched into the Akashic Record. Prophecies are changing. The Hermit beckons with his Lantern. The Fool dances on the edge. Does he dare look down?
Next month we'll discuss a pair of fantasy-adventures that break yet more new ground and watch for Katherine Kurtz's new hardcover novel about the occult origins of the United States. Did you know there's a ley line under the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington? Do you know why there's an Eye on the dollar bill? When you read that novel, think about this month's discussion in this column and consider the occult significance of The Internet.
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.
Until I get the direct links installed here, you can find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to. To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below.
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg