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March 1996

"There is a Disturbance in the Force"


Star Trek: Voyager - See local channel listings for syndication

Science Fiction Romance a newsletter edited by Jennifer Dunne, and Joanne Reid e-mail: or snail mail: POB 496, Endicott, NY 13760-0496 - they distribute an e-mail edition as well as print. (1999 addendum: check out our romance section --

Steal the Dragon by Patricia Briggs, Ace Fantasy, paperback November 1995

Eye of the Daemon by Camille Bacon-Smith, DAW paperback, January 1996

Highlander: Scimitar by Ashley McConnell, Aspect TV Tie-in, Warner Aspect, Feb. 1, 1996

Last month, I wrapped up a year-long exploration of the Fiction Delivery System with a close-up on how the viewers of a threatened TV show, Forever Knight, have used the World Wide Web to mobilize even casual viewers into support for the show. Now this column enters its fourth year at The Monthly Aspectarian and tackles an even bigger topic.

In the first year, we focused on a new genre emerging silently and unnoticed, embedded in other genres. I called that new genre Intimate Adventure. And I attempted to show how reading Intimate Adventure could help students of the occult sciences.

In the second year I began to examine the nature of Art and its relationship to the occult sciences, and the value of reading the broad field of sf/f in learning to understand that relationship.

Overlapping and interwoven has always been the third year's topic, The Fiction Delivery System (my own coinage) and the tricks artists use to induce you to believe six impossible things before breakfast. "The Fiction Delivery System" is a material plane manifestation of a formation on the astral plane where art originates. I coined the term fiction delivery system to cover print-publishing, TV, plays, films, live story-telling of the shamanistic schools, comics, pictorial novels, role playing games, computer games, and every other mechanism for delivering fiction.

The Monthly Aspectarian plans to have this entire set of reviews up and available on their web site at under science fiction reviews.

The "disturbance in the force" referred to in the title of this piece is a wave of change that is sweeping through the fiction delivery system due to the impact of electronic delivery systems such as the web and the Internet. It started with television in the 1930s, went on to computer games in the 1970s, and became e-mail and the web in the '90s. And all this time, elders have been blaming each modern marvel for a decrease in children's reading ability, and thus learning and reasoning ability.

This tsunami of change, traced by Alvin Toffler in his best selling book of the '70s, Future Shock, is now lapping at the foundations of our culture. Just as science and its consequent technology has accidentally caused an erosion of the quality of our atmosphere and water supply, so this tsunami of electronic change has had unanticipated side-effects.

In fact, a large number of respected prophets and seers, such as Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce, see the turning of the millennium as signaling the total destruction of the social order that has existed since we pulled the world out of the Dark Ages. No — longer than that — since the invention of the alphabet. According to some, possibly even since the discovery of fire.

This "disturbance in the force" which these Seers have identified definitely qualifies as an example of the Chinese concept of "Interesting Times".

These prophecies have a large number of people viscerally alarmed. Others are simply reacting to their own feeling for this "disturbance in the Force".

One symptom of that blind reaction is the "Moral Majority" movement in USA politics, and the Fundamentalist movements in several religions around the globe.

They feel change happening in the cultural programming the mind carries in the unconscious and subconscious, and change at that level is inherently terrifying in a nightmarish way. The Eternal Truths upon which one relies without question — from which one derives a sense of The Purpose of Life and one's Eternal Identity — are under attack. The logical reaction is to stop change.

Proponents of change react to this by trying to increase the rate of change and by rejecting all fundamental values without thought or consideration. The result is random change for the sake of change itself — which leads even more people to oppose change of anything for any reason.

I submit that students of the occult would benefit from spending a year or so studying the unconscious and subconscious programming that generates our sense of Eternal Truths, and carefully selecting which truths to live by and which to discard.

The science fiction/fantasy field is uniquely suited as an entry point into this evaluation, whether in book form or on television — or in other forms — because this field deals overtly and covertly with the astral plane. In Kabballah, "the Astral Plane" is part of "Yesod" or "Foundation." Things such as the fiction delivery system and art manifest first in Yesod and then crystallize into reality.

So, for this fourth year, a presidential election year, I will take up the question (made so famous by the Guardian at the Gate to the astral), "What is the Purpose of Life?"

Yes, it's a trick question, but if we knew the answer, then we'd know which changes are progressive, which conservative, and which reactionary. And we'd know when a "reactionary" change was actually better than a "progressive" one. Or at least we'd know what we want to progress toward.

Take, for example, the television show Star Trek: Voyager which has captivated so many people and which is said to be the first of the Star Treks after The Original Series (TOS) to have the style and flavor that fueled that original fandom.

Voyager is not "Lost In Space" — they're not lost at all. They know exactly where home is. It's just too far to get there in a lifetime. Notice also that as Yoda taught, they are not "trying" to get home. They're going home.

Notice also that every time Voyager diverts to chase after some possible shortcut, they end up in worse shape than before. The "purpose of their life" is to get home but it isn't going to be easy.

TOS spoke to the viewers of the 1960s about going out into adventure, into "where no man has gone before."

ST:Voyager speaks to the viewers of the 1990s about trying to get home again, but being blocked from that purpose.

In the 1960s, the "youngest starship captain" led his crew out into adventure — and they followed willingly.

In the 1990s, a young (but not youngest) starship captain leads her crew home, but a good number of them are not so willing to follow her even though they'd like to get back.

In between these two series, Captain Picard commanded a starship that was home to its crew, with family on board, and went "where no one has gone before." And Deep Space Nine became an orbiting home to a ragtag band of mismatched adventurers who weren't allowed to go adventuring (i.e. Generation X).

Let's put this into context in order to understand the Millennial Prophecies. In the 1960s, those born after World War II, the Baby Boomers, were reaching their teens and twenties, hormonally primed for adventuring. In the 1960s, the Baby Boomers led an anti-war, anti-establishment drop out and turn off, leave-this-planet tidal wave that actually forced a lowering of the voting and drinking age to 18 and a raft of other social changes.

In the 1990s, those born after WWII are pushing fifty while caring for elderly parents, putting kids through college and shuddering at the instability of their nice stable jobs that they gave up their cherished freedom to get. And they are leading a Tax Reform-Balance-The-Budget-At-All-Costs movement, change at any cost, even default on the USA debt.

As suddenly as Voyager woke up to discover they'd strayed too far from home, the Baby Boomers have wakened to realize they have lost the world they grew up in, and all the decades of life remaining to them aren't enough to recreate that world — their home.

Here is one more parallel: the portrayal of Captain Janeway, captain of Voyager. One week she's every bit as much of a captain as Kirk or Picard. The next week she gets the ship into a battle too big for them then stands on the bridge wringing her hands while damage reports fly at her.

So some viewers see Janeway as a Kirk, and some see her as a weak sister who doesn't belong on the bridge of a garbage scow. Very few put the two views of a captain together and realize that her confused characterization accurately portrays this society's confused view of what a woman is — an adventurer into the "where no woman has gone before" of the corporate board room, or a home-maker whose house-builder has failed to keep the roof on during the storm of recession.

There is a lot more serious wisdom to be extracted from a study of Star Trek: Voyager but we'll get back to that in future columns.

I want now to direct your attention to a source of thinking tools for solving the puzzle, "What is the Purpose of Life?" It is an e-mail/print newsletter devoted to a new genre called Science Fiction Romance, (to subscribe via e-mail, write ). I have reviewed many sfr novels and will continue to do so because in this subgenre one finds the highest concentration of Intimate Adventure.

The New York Times sf reviewer, Gerald Jonas, has called my own novels, "science fiction soap." I don't write "romance formula", but I do write relationship driven plots. Keeping my innate bias in mind, you can see why I find this newsletter so exciting, for here at last is the field that can contain Intimate Adventure.

In Science Fiction Romance newsletter there are interviews with writers in this embryonic genre in which they discuss how the field seems to be forming and shaping around their work, and they answer questions such as: Science fiction is often used to comment on modern culture and society. Was there anything you were trying to reveal or comment on in your book(s)?

Knowing what a writer actually intended (which is knowledge forbidden to academic literary critics and impossible in television, which is "art by committee") and comparing that to what you thought the story said, can help you understand how other people perceive the purpose of life.

For contrast, we must consider the typical science fiction hero who's too busy surviving to have any purpose in mind other than to take the next breath. Even under those circumstances, it's possible to discover a potential life-mate and a new purpose for one's life.

Patricia Briggs, in Steal the Dragon has produced a letter perfect example of the routine sf/f adventure tale but with depth and dimensions added by a pair of well-resolved love stories, and a mixture of political intrigue and magickal politics.

Briggs's hero is a woman who was once a slave but who claimed freedom when she cut the mark of slavery out of her own flesh, leaving a hideous mark on her cheek. Through strength of character and pride in profession and honor, she is led into a situation where she must once more become the slave of her old master — voluntarily this time. Her willing submission to this destiny leads her to slay a magickal dragon, regain her empathic talent and discover a life-mate who is an exile of a magickal folk, and a Healer as well as a telepath. I do hope there's a sequel in the works for it seems to me that there's much to be learned from this ex-slave — lessons the writers of Captain Janeway's dialogue would find very useful.

The slave metaphor seems to have a very important place in our own society's search for a purpose to life. I've seen it used in everything from romance to erotica to outright pornography. It's a core theme of vampire stories, both horror genre and vampire-as-good-guy like Forever Knight.

Perhaps that's why the Civil War (1860s) and the freeing of the USA's slaves figures so prominently in our national consciousness right now. It took a century between the legal freeing of the slaves and the actual attempt to materialize that freedom — the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's.

Perhaps the potency of the slave metaphor in fiction stems from the way both the owner and the slave have vital elements of identity defined by that relationship. The Civil War freed the owned, and right now we're in the midst of the war to free the owners so they won't keep trying to regain their property. And so the prevalence of slave-motif in fiction is growing.

In occult wisdom, every thing you possess possesses you. If the purpose of your life is to free yourself from the wheel of life, then you must free yourself of possessing.

One fantasy genre where the master/slave metaphor is sharp and potent is the binding of daemons by a magickal incantation.

Camille Bacon-Smith's first novel, Eye of the Daemon focuses on exactly that — the ineffable plight of both the bound and the binder in a magickal binding. Her main hero is the son of a mortal woman and a daemon father. The father is `sent' from his native plane to take care of the problem by murdering his son on the material plane. At first encounter, the father is "bound" non-magickally by the son's love, and later willingly (well, sort of willingly) submits to being bound by that son through a more usual magickal binding.

The inner experiences of father and son under force of bonding, binding and partnering form an intricate excursion into many questions surrounding the "purpose of life", because the father/son relationship is integral to the concept "life".

In fact, Eye of the Daemon opens questions having to do with the very definition of Time which is integral to the definition of "life". The structure of this fantasy universe maps neatly and perfectly onto the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and illuminates many mysteries of the Tarot though it never mentions Tarot.

For would-be writers among you, I should mention that the Eye manuscript sat unread at the publisher's for a year.

Camille — via e-mail — told me that there are no prequels to Eye of the Daemon but DAW will be publishing another novel of hers, The Face of Time, set for December. She says it is about different characters, and is a ghost story/police procedural/psychological study. She is planning a sequel to Daemon. I can't wait!

Camille Bacon-Smith is the author of the best selling nonfiction book, Enterprising Women which is about media fandoms, what they do, how they do it, and why. It is a study of fandom from a folklorist's point of view.

If the SAVE FOREVER KNIGHT campaign on the Internet that I discussed last month strikes you as an important development, you will understand what is happening on the Internet and why, much better after you've read Enterprising Women and very possibly Bacon-Smith's forthcoming nonfiction book, Science Fiction Culture.

Speaking of the Forever Knight activity on the World Wide Web portion of the Internet, I have an update on the Forever Knight web page's "hit rate" (the number of people stopping to look for information on what to do to help save the show). As of Wednesday January 24th, about a month after the threat of cancellation came public, the FK web page hit rate was running at an average of 300 hits per day. But on the 24th, the hit rate seemed to be about 640/ 24 hours. Something happened to double the hit rate that day.

Here's a theory of what happened. Oddly enough, January 24 was the day that the article in Electronic Media about FK fandom came out and the day the seven FK fans who attended NATPE (the TV industry trade show mentioned last month) handed out bags and brochures.

Word has it that since January 24, the hit rate on the FK web page has stayed at 1 hit per 3 minutes instead of 1 hit/5minutes.

And that's not all the Forever Knight fans accomplished at NATPE. This is from one of those who went:

"Word has it, from a variety of sources, that we stunned the industry. Truly stunned them. The independent companies are cheering for us. TriStar and USA Network are shaking their heads. The Neilsens were already under attack, and Forever Knight fandom is being seen as another serious blow to their credibility. FK is the talk of all the coffee klatches at TriStar, and TriStar (and FK) is the talk of all the coffee klatches elsewhere in the industry!"

I understand that people on the floor of the convention were using their notebook computers to log into the Forever Knight web site to check out the "buzz". I logged into that site and I can tell you it is easily the equal of the Vanguard Mutual Funds home page in look and depth of information. The address is

More: on January 29th, Dow Jones News Service carried an item saying NBC is looking for an alternative to the Nielsens. The implication, as I see it, is that the industry knows the Nielsens haven't been doing what they have been assumed to do — picking out the shows that deliver viewers to the advertisers. The Fiction Delivery System is shattering under our feet.

Also from last month: Katherine Kurtz's new hardcover, Two Crowns for America (about the occult roots of the United States) is now on the stands, but I haven't laid hands on a copy myself yet. I've heard her talking about this book for about four or five years now, so I know I can honestly recommend it. Katherine Kurtz says — via e-mail in response to my query — not to expect the paperback until this time in 1997.

Katherine Kurtz is the author of the 1983 Ballantine paperback, Lammas Night which is about World War II and how the witches of England used magick to defend the island against Hitler's occult attacks. More recently, her Adept series which I've mentioned previously in this column, has won wide acclaim. These are books you don't want to miss.

Honorable mention this month goes to Ashley McConnell for Scimitar, a television tie-in that is nevertheless a stalwart literary achievement in its own right.

This is the Ashley McConnell whose name you've seen on other television tie-in novels, and practice makes perfect. I have a soft spot in my heart for desert adventures, and this one lets us watch Duncan McCloud in North Africa during 1916, with Lawrence of Arabia. Duncan gets spat at by a camel and knows just exactly what to do about it. And we go by flashback to his first adventures as a — guess what — slave! — in Algiers some while after the Moors had been thrown out of Spain. There's a lady love, pirates, sword-forging lore, sword magick, and all the wondrous elements deftly woven into a tightly plotted, adroitly portrayed novel. I couldn't have done it this well.

Again the masterful writing reflects the readership's consuming interest in Identity, how it is acquired, maintained, and possibly stolen. The novel is based on one of the more intriguing flashbacks we saw in an episode and in addition to all that — we get to go to one of my favorite places, Petra. I researched Petra for one of my novels, and I can tell you that McConnell did this work superlatively. Believe every word of it.

Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, NY. 10952.



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