Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

Recommended Books

November, 1997

"Mastering Perspective "


The Select by F. Paul Wilson, William Morrow & Co., Inc., hardcover, 1994.

Siduri's Net, a novel of The Cloudships of Orion by P. K. McAllister, Roc Science Fiction, paperback, 1994.

Earth: Final Conflict — new 1997 TV sf show created by Gene Roddenberry in 1976. Planned Debut: October, 1997.

Predictions For A New Millennium by Noel Tyl, Llewellyn Publications, paperback, 1996 (astrology nonfiction).

The Waterborn by J. Gregory Keyes, Del Rey Fantasy, hardcover, 1996; paperback, 1997.

A Darker Dream by Amanda Ashley, Love Spell Romance, 1997.

The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic by Dion Fortune, S. Weiser, reprinted 1978 from English edition of 1956. The Sea Priestess was first published privately in 1938.

Last month, I wrote: "Those who are attempting to master the disciplines of the Magician gradually gain a vision of the universe in which everything interacts with everything else." This was mentioned in the context of explaining why I don't write "reviews" as isolated statements about individual books. I've established previously that as a fiction writer myself, I know many writers — and I know that novels are very often produced as utterances in an ongoing conversation among writers that the readers simply listen to.

Now I want to draw back to a longer perspective and show you another way to look at this "drawing room conversation" or "floating bull session" among writers of fiction and nonfiction.

This year's subject for this column is Mastery. The primary signature of the master is the habit of voluntarily choosing his/her perspective on a matter. In fact, the master will look at any matter brought before him/her from a number of perspectives before rendering a judgment. "Mastery" means having a full inventory of perspectives available.

The test of whether you really understand a matter is how the matter changes when you change your viewing perspective. If it changes in a predictable and reliable way, then you've "got it," but if you keep discovering new things simply by changing perspective, then you don't have mastery of this matter and it requires further study.

For those who have not achieved mastery, a matter may pass this test because they have too few perspectives available to test the matter. How many perspectives are enough to signify mastery?

I doubt anyone has ever attempted to define it that way, but my personal rule of thumb is to keep acquiring new perspectives until the last five or six new ones are just duplicates of the older ones, and nothing has been gained by the effort. This is a cost-accounting way of defining "enough." It can lead to error, but the error will eventually be uncovered. Then it can be corrected.

So, use all the perspectives at your command to think about the five major subject areas we've covered so far over the nearly five years of this column:

#1 - Intimate Adventure and Forging the Magickal Personality and Character

#2 - Art and Magick - the first step out of body and the relationship between art and magick

#3 - The Fiction Delivery System - and the tricks artists use to get you to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

#4 - "What is the Purpose of Life" - the favorite Question of the Guardian at the Gate, along with "Who Are You?" - accessing the Astral plane

#5 - Mastery - in theory and practice

If you haven't got a full collection of The Monthly Aspectarian for reference, you may find these columns posted for free download on the Web. Start with the column Index at — which we call Rathorite Retreat. You should also find on that site copies of the early columns. A feminist version of my article defining Intimate Adventure that forms the first two columns is posted at which we call Tecton Central. These are connected via a webring for easy surfing.

From this long perspective you may see what I have been doing all this time in a different light — particularly if you now have my new book on the Tarot, The Biblical Tarot: Never Cross a Palm with Silver, published by Belfry Books, an imprint of Toad Hall ( You may see that when I read novels I follow the stream of vital energy — magickal energy — that these writers who are denizens of the Astral plane channel into our existence.

I see this stream of vital energy as the causative force moving behind the scenes of the major headlines and trends in our everyday world.

When you understand how the vital energy stream in novels has shifted from subject to subject, form to form, genre to genre, theme to theme, over a stretch of decades, and how world affairs have tended to shift with that fictional manifestation (though several decades after the fictional emphasis has waned) — then you can predict how the vital energy stream in current novels might materialize in your real world future — at the supermarket, on the stock market, or in what choices you have when you buy a car, book a vacation or hunt for a job.

I'm not talking about "futurology" here — which is what sf/f is so famous for. "Futurology" is a matter of extrapolation, not prediction — just as good astrology is more extrapolation than prediction. A futurologist identifies what Wall Street calls a "secular trend" (secular here referring to long-term trends that last decades, not cyclical or seasonal trends) and uses imagination, science, mathematics, statistics and common sense to "foresee" where that trend will lead.

I have an excellent novel here that does a marvelous job of "futurology" besides being a whopping good read. It is by a writer who has some sf/f to his credit, F. Paul Wilson, and is titled The Select. Since it was published in '94, it must have been written in the early '90s and thus is based on the world view of the late '80s. This is '97, and it still holds up perfectly. That's a solid piece of futurology.

The Select is a novel about medical schooling and how it might be affected by HMOs and the changing field of medicine, the economic dynamics driving the practice of medicine by front-line doctors and back-lab researchers. Medical schools are always connected to research hospitals, and funding medical education is bound to become harder and harder as HMOs reduce the expected lifetime earnings for a medical practitioner or researcher, especially in the early years when they must pay back student loans.

Wilson is himself a medical practitioner but this is the first novel he's done overtly drawing on that area of mastery. He postulates how the life decisions of three young medical students change the world around them. They are all top students and apply to "The Best" medical school — which only takes the very best of the best, but gives all of them full scholarships and free dormitory, food, laboratory fees, etc.

He gives us the substance of the "bull sessions" these students will be engaging in as HMOs take over — and it rings true.

Since this is a novel, not a biography, there is, of course, a nefarious plot full of dire and terrible deeds that these three young students uncover. That part isn't futurology (though it's chillingly realistic), but just good plotting. The theme of this novel is futurology, though — and it says, "Hey, watch out folks! The way we restructure the medical delivery system will determine what sort of relative value we put on this human life as opposed to that one." This novel theme has been handled before, but this example of it is particularly memorable as it includes how the Baby Boomer demographic bulge will stress the medical delivery system. The novel even touches on the popular theme of how secret government experiments may fall into the wrong hands.

Another type of futurology is represented very well by a book I believe I've drawn to your attention before. It's in a series by P. K. McAllister, overall titled "The Cloudships of Orion" and this one is titled "Siduri's Net." It shows us the technological futurology of how we might mine the particle clouds in space for valuable elements. And it shows us how, given a technical necessity to go out there and mine those clouds, people would take their families with them and find a way to live and make a living, too, in spite of all the difficulties. This novel is a solid piece of work on both accounts.

Futurology is one of the things that writers of sf/f do — but not the only thing. In my reading, I tend to ignore the futurology and focus on what I call "imagineering."

The word "imagineering" was invented decades ago — I've forgotten who is to be credited with it but it's one of the greats of our field. Basically, it means using the imagination to create "the future." The word is based on the spirit behind what was called (at the turn of the twentieth century) "American know-how" — the spirit that produced such marvels as a coast-to-coast railroad and the clothes washing machine. From that spirit grew the conviction that we could do anything we could imagine. In the 1950s that became, in sf/f circles, "imagineering" — "we," the sf/f readers and writers, imagined that America could put a man on the moon and hardly twenty years later we did just that.

Few but those with a solid occult education would attribute the first Moon walk to the imagineers changing the future that the futurologists saw. Most people living inside the scientific view of the universe see clearly that it was the government money and the genius of the scientists at NASA that did it. And many people think that it is necessary to choose between these two possible causes. Personally, I think it's both.

In the 1950s most of the output of the sf/f field by futurologists trended toward the 1960s "New Wave" sf depicting dystopias such as Brave New World, and the after-the-bomb stories like Silent Spring.

For a long time, the stream of vital energy pouring down from the Astral, channeled by these futurologists, carried a penetrating warning of dire consequences from the atomic bomb and genetic effects caused by radiation. None of that came to pass — at least it hasn't yet. On the other hand, the potential still seethes just below the surface.

Meanwhile, the imagineers such as Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Hal Clement, Gordon R. Dickson, Poul Andersen, and E. E. Smith, Ph.D., explored the galaxy, designed interstellar governments and economies, police forces and aliens galore.

At this writing, in 1997, it seems to me the imagineer's visions are more likely to come to pass than those dire visions of the futurologists. Dire predictions are warnings given in the hopes of averting the very disaster that is depicted. Imaginary universes are meant to inspire creativity, unleash "know-how" and guide us into the Unknown with a sense of adventure. So both the futurologists and imagineers have "succeeded" in changing the future because both combine the three levels of abstract thinking that are the defining signature of sf/f's corner of the Astral — "What if . . . ?" and "If only . . ." and "If this goes on . . .". The futurologists have warned us away from the course we were on, and the imagineers have given us other choices.

This fall, according to the July 5-11 TV Guide, we should be seeing a large number of new sf/f television shows, among them a presentation from Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek). This one is called Earth: Final Conflict and uses the "Earth is invaded" motif — which is vintage sf just like everything else GR has done. This motif was brought to public notice by the TV series V and, later, from some of the same imagineers of the TV series Alien Nation, neither of which broke new sf/f ground in theme or imagery.

GR's Earth: Final Conflict was dated 1976, before Star Trek's revival, and about the time my book, Star Trek Lives! was beginning to have a burgeoning effect on Star Trek fandom. I vaguely recall him mentioning this project in some private conversation, and my later disappointment that it never reached the screen. Earth-invasion stories are one of my most favorite things.

We will see what the 1990s visionaries working on this series actually bring to the screen, but I, for one, sitting here in July, 1997, find this new series very exciting.

On the other hand, from a reality perspective, the advent of this new GR series might not be all good. Many of you may have noted in passing how many of the imaginary inventions created in the 1960s for classic Trek set centuries into the future have actually become everyday devices already in the 1990s — absurdities like talking computers, electronic digital body temperature thermometers, thin display screens, palm-top communicators, wireless com-links to a computer (such as Spock wears in his ear), library computers — oh, the list is endless.

The occultist who has mastered imagineering may suspect that GR was not predicting so much as causing the future to happen.

With this new series, though, I can't get out of my mind the bizarre set of circumstances involved in the order in which these matters came to my attention. As I said, I only vaguely recall GR mentioning this Earth invasion story, and of course he asked that this not be mentioned to anyone at that time. I think he may not have had anything written down about this one. I'd completely forgotten about GR's un-produced work until I saw this announcement in TV Guide.

A month or two ago while working on another project, I had cause to read a book titled, Predictions For A New Millennium by Noel Tyl in which the noted astrologer whom I've quoted here the last two months, dares to predict that as early as 2004 the United States will make official, open contact with intelligences from outer space. If you know enough astrology to follow the footnotes of this book, the prediction looks more like a solid piece of extrapolation.

There is a theory that the general public awareness of science fiction and non-human TV characters is a stirring from the Astral that is preparing our human groupmind for this contact with outsiders. If that's true, and we do achieve official contact, I can only hope that our futurologists and imagineers have, with their dire warnings, managed to avert disaster during this First Contact as they seem to have averted an atomic holocaust.

Looking from the long perspective at the shifting stream of vitality in the fiction that I've been following, I see that the fifties and sixties focus on dire mistakes with atomic energy and the shining future in space that we could have instead, "if only" we could master the art of government (see my series of columns on government in sf/f). This gave way in the 1970s and 1980s to intimate adventure (my own coinage, defined in my first columns here) and stories that involve ever more realistic grappling with adult relationships.

During this time, there was a furious amount of energy that was diverted from the commercial publishing venue into "fanzines." The "stream of vitality" that I follow was essentially blocked out of the mass market paperback field by commercial editorial decisions. When the stream did break through into professional print, the vitality was disguised as something other than what it really was with many novels being "sold as" horror, sf, fantasy, romance, or mystery when in fact they are actually intimate adventure.

Blocked from the commercial market, the "stream of vitality" gravitated into Star Trek fandom. Hardly had the first season of Star Trek gotten under way before the first of the Star Trek fanzines began to appear — amateur magazines published at cost, with stories written for no pay at all. The earliest, such as Spockanalia, were written and published by experienced science fiction fans, the very people who were feeling the blockage of commercial channels the most strongly. And here, in the Star Trek fanzine, was the natural outlet for this stream of vitality. At the peak of this trend, a top Star Trek fanzine might have a print run of 2,000 copies.

The main direction of this fan fiction shifted and shifted and shifted again as the fan writers were forced to re-invent the concept "genre" for themselves so that a reader could know what she was buying before she invested large amounts of money in it — because fanzines were much more expensive a reading habit than professionally published novels.

As I said, stories are very often written as utterances in a conversation and nowhere was this more evident than in the fanzines. Writers and readers were discussing matters of relationship via stories. The trend came to full fruition with regard to classic Trek in the stories delineating the relationship between Kirk and Spock.

As that was happening, Trek-fic spun off another whole field, the vital energy stream shifting again into pastiche written about other television shows, turning all the non-Trek characters beloved by fans of Trek this way and that, looking for information buried in different perspectives. That exploration is still in full spate but has shifted venue from fanzines on paper to e-mail and the web. Now, fan writing is cheaper than professionally published books. Fanzines are now free.

Meanwhile, the vitality stream of subject matter in professional print in the 1990's is slanting more and more toward the relationship story.

One of the most important elements in intimate adventure and the relationship story in general is the use and abuse of power. Psychic power is one of the most important types of power in use in any relationship — whether the parties know it's there or not. J. Gregory Keyes attempts to grapple with the personal and social consequences of uncontrolled psychic power in his novel, The Waterborn. He tiptoes up to the edges of intimate adventure in this page-turner of a novel. The main viewpoint character is a young girl who is facing puberty and the eruption of her psychic powers. Her culture has kept her in ignorance of what is going to happen to her. But she has a typical sf hero's attitude toward the unknown. She launches an all-out search for the information she's missing, and does not flinch in the face of dark terrors or long trips through the sewers of the city.

Keyes has created such an ornate fantasy universe, overburdened with elements that don't actually address the theme which I see as dominant in this work, that the intimate adventure elements got swept aside in the vast mechanism of how this fantasy world operates. This "whole world" perspective is commercially popular these days in fantasy novels, so that's not surprising. What I found surprising was how very well Keyes reticulated the intimate adventure story threads. He has produced one of the few readable fantasy novels I've run across lately.

And actually, The Waterborn is also relevant to the August column in which I discussed how "The Mind Writes in the Body," because the secret that this young girl uncovers is that, uncontrolled, her psychic power will forcibly transform her body into that of a monster. In other words, the primary fantasy theme in this novel is "The Mind Writes in the Body" — and it's a well done theme, too. But I think this novel belongs to the vitality stream of the relationship novel because of the way the various characters modify their behavior according to the emotional needs of other characters. This could easily be classed as an intimate adventure novel "sold as" fantasy genre.

Please note, the vitality stream I'm tracking here isn't followed by watching best seller trends. The number of people reading a particular novel is usually inversely proportional to the importance of that novel. The significant novels that define the particular vitality stream I'm following are the ones which may affect just a few people, but affect them very strongly.

Consider a river. Confined to a narrow downslope channel, the water roars and foams and smashes its way along, cutting its own channel — filled with energy, power to turn turbines and do work. That same amount of water — that same amount of vitality pouring into manifestation from the Astral — spread widely over flat terrain slows to a crawl and becomes too shallow to navigate. It may fertilize the crops, but it won't turn a turbine or produce much electricity. Most of that water will soak in or evaporate and never reach the sea. Thus it will maintain the status quo, but not change anything.

The vitality stream that I'm tracking in my choice of reading matter is the type that turns turbines, transports tons of cargo and thus inspires visionaries to build near it, which changes everything. A going civilization needs both kinds of rivers. Neither is better than the other. The one that has my attention is the one that affects very few people (even the TV shows I review are not the most popular), but the vitality stream I follow is the one that moves people deeply, inspires them to reach beyond their limits, and carries their vision into the far future.

In commercial fiction, we've seen the vitality stream shift into the vampire novel. We've seen vampire novels first appear in science fiction, then shift into the horror genre through its burgeoning and subsequent collapse. After horror began waning, vampire novels shifted to the mystery genre (and don't forget Barnabas Collins, soap opera vampire). A few years later, vampire novels abandoned mystery and found a home in the romance genre where they've cut into new, original subject matter — because the romance writers know a lot of science fiction writers (some romance writers do sf/f under other pen names). And so the vampire romance novel expounds on what science fiction originally did with the vampire by creating sympathetic and lovable vampires who were the heroes, not the evil force or villain.

I maintain that "the vampire novel" doesn't belong "in" any genre but is a genre of its own with subgenres of its own already well defined. Some vampire novels are actually intimate adventure, like the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.

I reported here a couple of years ago that editors had stopped buying vampire novels and that the stream of them was drying up. Many of my readers didn't believe this, but now we see how few and far between vampire novels have become and most are now romance or historical (or both).

I have one vampire romance for you this month, and with luck might have a new Yarbro "Saint Germain" to discuss next month. This month I have A Darker Dream by Amanda Ashley (a pen name for Madeline Baker).

This novel, I believe, represents the maturity of the vampire romance. It is solidly plotted, nicely paced, and takes all the vampire elements into account. It has the typical romance novel structure, male and female points of view fraught with misunderstandings and different interpretations of the same facts. It seems to be set in Regency England but could happen almost anywhere anytime — but Regency is still a top seller.

This novel shows the male vampire struggling to master The Hunger (and failing until rescued by true love, whereupon all his centuries-old problems vanish).

In the Star Trek fanzine genres, this would probably be classed as a "Mary Sue" — the type of story a very young writer would turn out (if only she could write that well) in which the writer herself becomes the main character in the story and rescues the hero by dint of her vast hidden virtues that the hero perceives even though they're hidden.

As it happens, the Mary Sue is my favorite type of ST story, no matter how badly written. This one is marvelously well turned, smoothly executed, a breathless page turner.

I didn't believe the ending, but I didn't care. The dialogue was insipid and I didn't care. That's almost a sure sign the thing got to my "Mary Sue button." I just respond to this type of story, and I'd happily read one a week.

Now think, again from the long perspective. Star Trek began in the mid-1960s and was followed by a giant explosion in the science fiction field, led by book publishing, followed by movies and television.

Star Trek brought women into reading — and writing — sf/f. Before Star Trek, sf/f as a field was heavily dominated by men. Now, it's about half and half. And the addition of women to the field has changed the vitality stream's bed.

Meanwhile, starting in the 1970s, we had the women's liberation movement which shifted, changed, and redefined itself many times. Coincidentally, the sexist and dated classic Trek was the first TV adventure-drama to depict a woman in a position of authority in a military setting (Lt. Uhura). Uhura set young women, black and white, to dreaming and imagining themselves in positions of authority during wild adventures. Today women have combat roles in the armed forces and thus a chance to gain rank and, eventually, authority.

In the 1990's, women are regarded very differently in the workplace than they once were. That process has just barely started.

Those of you who have read the novels of Dion Fortune which delineate the way ceremonial magick manifests in mundane society may find it easier to grasp the particular long perspective I'm using here.

Fortune wrote two novels, Sea Priestess and Moon Magic which depict a very private magickal ritual done to rebalance the masculine and feminine forces in the world. Those books were published to a very tiny readership (originally very much like a fanzine is published) but were so meaningful to that small segment of the population that the novels are still in print today, regarded as classics of the field. And despite their very dated, sexist and racist overtones, they're still very readable novels. It's possible, in the magickal view of the universe, that these two novels actually started the Women's Movement by making a place for that stream of vitality to manifest.

If it's possible for a small group of people — readers of an obscure novel, viewers of an unpopular television show, imagining very hard — to divert the direction of human society, then every novel you read, every television show you watch, every bit of fiction you are moved by, every emotion you feel, every thought you think, contributes significantly to the destiny of humanity. The smaller the minority you belong to, the more potential you have to spark change.

In the magickal view of the universe, this connection is possible. In the scientific view of the universe, it is highly unlikely. However, in science fiction's imagineering, the premise is that nothing can ever happen unless it is first imagined and only very few humans have the ability to imagine something new. And in sf/f the corollary is true: if you can imagine it, you can make it so. Nothing is impossible once it has been imagineered.

That premise and its corollary form the identifying signature of the sf/f field and define sf/f as a literature that shows the connection between manifestation and imagination. As I've established in previous columns, imagination is the cognitive function that accesses the Astral plane — termed in Qabalah, "Foundation" because it is the foundation of the world. The foundation of a building gives it shape, strength and stability. The Astral plane shapes reality and the vitality stream from the Astral is what causes things to last a long time once they manifest on the Material. That applies to everything from a well-made chair to a well-made life.

If my identification of intimate adventure as the hidden genre that spans all genres turns out to be correct, and if I'm right that the stream of vitality rushing down into manifestation right now is shifting our fiction-focus to the relationship story, of which intimate adventure is one prominent type, then the next big shift in human societies and cultures can be expected to be one in the area of relationships.

Look closely at the vitality stream I've been following in this column and you will see that many of the most powerful stories are centered on the human/non-human relationship. On television, Kirk and Spock; in the movies, The Day The Earth Stood Still; and in print we have the vampire story in which the vampire is the Good Guy and doesn't consider himself quite human — yet forms a relationship with a human.

And the objective of these stories is always to show how to make friends with the enemy or natural adversary. The main skill I've seen depicted by characters of stories where such a friendship succeeds is the mastery of perspective — the ability to deliberately choose to look at matters from a different perspective.

If Noel Tyl is correct and the United States is on the brink of admitting to having extraterrestrial relationships — whether or not such relationships have been going on for a while — then maybe, just maybe, reading these novels I've recommended is an important contribution that readers of this magazine can make to a safe and secure future. If this theory of magick is correct, you don't have to do anything — you only have to read and feel and share your feelings with others.

One doesn't get a second chance to make a first impression. Whatever we show ourselves to be, our alien visitors might very well take us to actually be. 2004 is only seven years from now. GR's new series could still be on the air then — but if it had been produced when he originally wrote it, it would be long forgotten. Will watching television help us make a good first impression? It might if, as described in the September column, you keep your Correlation Program running all the time and examine everything you see from every perspective you've mastered.

Work on the Astral and the Material will conform. But never work out of fear to avoid pain (emotional or physical) or for personal gain of any kind.

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



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