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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AKS book - review

Can't get enough of PKD?  Try AKS book.  A Kindred Spirit, by ej Morgan, will feed yur craving for irreality in fiction. 

This fictional account of Philip K. Dick's life begins with the hit on his house in Marin County and ends with . . . well, I won't spoil it for you. 

A must read for PKD fans.


Quachi - a story from the ancient past

Please enjoy this story from my collection, Quachi and Other Stories and Poems.  The  book is available on Amazon. 

Note: This story was inspired by a documentary about the ancient monuments of Peru.  The archaeologists could not understand why the people simply abandoned their great cities and religious centers.  They offered several possible answers, and this story is my answer.

Father held his head high as he proudly led his family up the rocky path to the plateau where the sanctuary stood.  All of them – his wife, three sons and three daughters – carried offerings for the nobles.  Each year in the season of offering, they brought their gifts, and each year in the season they prayed for the Great Quachi to play his flute and grant them the gift of rain. 

The rain must return.  When it had rained, ten seasons past, the vicious torrent had torn long gouges into the earth with its claws.  The farms of the high plain needed gentle rain to fill their canals.  Father’s youngest son never had seen the rain. 

On the shore stood cliffs filled with the shells of dead creatures that had suddenly found themselves lifted out of the sea by the uplifting of the earth.  The family farm would soon be a dead shell, as well. 

Father looked back now and then, to make certain that his family stayed together and maintained a respectful silence in this most holy of places.  He worried about his youngest son, Tlati, who had let the llama bolt and run last year.  That must not happen this time.  They must see the Great Quachi.
Tlati led the llama colt by a fiber rope looped around its neck and tied around its nose, while his older brothers carried sacks of corn, melons and other fruits to offer to the Lords of the nation.  They had walked this maze before, making the annual pilgrimage to the high plateau of Perqat Namu on the western edge of the Terraced Mountains and entering the packed dirt path between mud brick walls that rose twice as high as their heads.  The path through the maze started out wide and open to the air, then narrowed as the walls closed in, finally coming to the part where they must walk single-file in the darkness under a thatch roof.  It felt good to be walking, after waiting for two weeks in makeshift tents on the beach by the Great Ocean for their turn to approach the Lords.  Other families still dotted the sand with their temporary encampments.  They littered the sand with the detritus of daily life:  fish bones, potsherds, corn husks, broken toys, scraps of discarded clothing and such.  The beach stunk of dead fish and cooking fires.

Every year they offered their corn to the Lord of the Fields, their melons to the Lord of the Gardens, and so forth, finally offering one young llama of perfect conformation and without blemish to the Lord of Livestock.  The llama must be less than one year old and raised in their house as a member of the family.  Every year they were turned back without having seen the Great Quachi at the center of the maze, their offerings having fallen short of perfection.  This was Tlati’s second year of pilgrimage, but he knew of years before from the stories that his three older brothers told.
Father never told stories.  He led them through the maze in silence, maintaining an air of authority over his family, turning around to shush them with a stern look if they dared to whisper in this most holy of shrines.  His two oldest boys carried the gifts of corn and melons.  His youngest son, as was the custom, led the llama colt.  Behind the line of men came the women, their mother and three sisters, carrying household goods to offer to the Lords:  hand-woven textiles of the finest wool and most precious colors, clay pots filled with delicacies of bean curd and llama stew, rough gemstones and small common stones carved with blessings and prayers. 

The family hoped, with these offerings, to reach the center of the maze and petition the Great Quachi for the gift of rain.  Their canals had been running dry too soon, their fields scorching under the harsh sun, their crops shriveling and yielding fewer and smaller fruits each season.  Each year they dug the canals anew to better carry the scant rainfall.  Each year they brought the best of their produce, their finest handicrafts and their most perfect young llama as offerings to seek admittance that they might implore the Great Quachi to play his flute and, in so doing, to cause the sky to yield up rain.  Each year they were turned back, disappointed but determined to try again next year, when the season of pilgrimage came around again.
Dust swirled around Tlati’s bare feet with each step he took.  The llama, raised in their own house as a member of their family, walked by his side like a little brother, making the rope seem superfluous.  He kept a tight grip on his end of the rope, nevertheless, remembering last year when the llama had balked.  This llama would also try to run away, Father had warned him.  They always do.  Tlati resolved in his heart that he would not disappoint Father again.  They must see the Great Quachi.  They must have rain. 
They walked in solemn procession down the path, which turned left and then right, then right again, winding in ever tighter spirals as the walls gradually closed in, making the path narrower at each turn.  In each of their minds, the same thoughts ran through, the same words they had spoken every night around the cooking fire:  “We  must have water, we must have rain.  The Great Quachi must play his flute and bring the rain.”  Here and there a tapestry of red, green, yellow and black hung from the mud brick wall, illuminated by a candle set into a niche on the opposite wall.  Each tapestry bore the insignia of rulership over the people and the land on its top half, and the seal of a Lord near the fringed bottom.  When they passed under the edge of the thatch roof, walking single-file, they quickened their pace in the excitement of knowing that they were near to the offices.  The thatch roof darkened their path, to impress upon them the brightness of the light in the offices of the Lords.  Each Lord had his own alcove, a small room open to the sky, that one person might enter through an opening in the side of the tunnel, for now the roofed walls felt more like an underground tunnel leading into ever deeper darkness than a path leading to the high sanctuary of the gods.
In the first alcove sat the Lord of Stones, dressed in feathers and seated at a stone table.  The wall behind him displayed a painted scene of women gathering stones from the fields around their mud house.  Mother watched as Tlati’s youngest sister, Chalca, placed a cloth bundle on the stone table and pulled its corners apart, displaying her offering of a dozen stones, some precious and therefore not engraved, others common and therefore having prayers and blessings scratched and painted into their flat sides.  Stones of violet, red and green sparkled in the sunlight.  Mother moved her lips in silent prayer to be allowed to go forward and walk that much closer to the Caller Down of the Rain.  The official nodded, the top feathers of his headdress nearly touching Chalca’s head, then lifted his head and looked to one side.  It was the side of the path leading to the next official, so their first offering had been accepted. 

The children found it unbearable that nobody spoke to them and that they must not speak.  They suspected that their parents also felt ready to burst with speech, and that they would speak long and loud on the way home, when at last they were turned away and forced to leave the holy place.  They always did. 

The next sister offered a pot of llama stew to the Lord of Kitchens, and he must have savored the aroma, for he lingered over the pot for several minutes, mumbling to himself, before he finally nodded and sent the family on to the next office.

Each offering left the family group waiting outside the office while one of them offered the best they had.  Each offering that a Lord accepted gained them access to the next Lord, where another one would make the next offering.  Mama’s bean curd won the Lord’s blessing and a smile of delight at its delicate aroma. 

Next came the brothers.  Father watched them with the silent prayer upon his lips, we must have water, we must have rain.  The melons were small but sweet, the corn stunted but edible.  The Lords accepted those offerings from Tlati’s brothers, but they did not seem well pleased. 

The family walked deeper into the narrowing maze, their sense of anticipation growing with each step they took.  Tlati’s apprehension grew, for he knew that the last offering must be his, to hand his young brother llama over to the Lord of Livestock.  Father made his offering of a bundle of firewood, cut to the proper dimensions and tied together with cords made of dried vines.  The Lord of Fire cut the cords and inspected each piece separately for the quality of the wood and the size and shape.  It seemed to take forever, but at last the Lord nodded and sent the family on to the next office.

Finally, they came to the next but last office, the Lord of Livestock.  They had spent most of the day, beginning at first light, making their progress through the maze to this point near the center.  The thatch roof in this end of the tunnel let in the dappled sunlight of late afternoon through a looser weave than in the halls outside the offices of the lesser Lords.  The walls stood somewhat farther apart, allowing two adults to stand side by side outside the alcove where the last Lord but one awaited their offering of a fine young llama.  Father and Mother watched from the doorway, while the children jockeyed for position behind them, trying to see around them and into the office.
Tlati stepped into the alcove, giving the rope a tug to encourage the llama to come along.  The llama must have smelled the blood, for it balked, rearing back and dragging the boy backwards and pulling him off of his feet.  Tlati fell to the ground and had the breath knocked out of him, but still he held tightly to the rope.  His family watched with concern but did not move, for it was forbidden to help.  Tlati must perform this task himself.  Regaining his feet, he spoke softly to the llama colt and stroked its neck, reassuring the frightened animal that all was well.  He felt like a traitor, for he knew what lay ahead, but the family’s need was great and this was the only way to meet their need. 

He rubbed his brother llama behind its ears and whispered soothing words of affection, promising food and all other good things that a llama might want.  This colt had slept in his own bed and eaten out of his own hand.  It trusted him as if he were its own brother.  So, with a little coaxing, Tlati convinced the llama colt to enter the office. 

The heavy-set, bronze-skinned Lord of Livestock, dressed only in a leather apron, reached out a huge hand and grabbed the llama by the neck.  With his other hand, he flashed a black obsidian knife of exquisite sharpness and slit the llama’s throat, sending a shower of blood over himself and Tlati.

The boy nearly fainted in horror, even though this was his second time and he had known what to expect.  He watched the Lord carefully to see which way he would nod his head.  Would this be the time when they were finally allowed to beseech the Great Quachi for life-giving rain?  Or would they once again be turned away to struggle through another year of drought?  He had heard his father and mother whispering about it in the wee hours of the night, when they thought he was asleep.  They could not survive another dry year.  If the Great Quachi did not play his flute and bring forth the return of the rain, then the people must move away or die.  These two choices were all that lay before them.

For himself, Tlati could not bear to lose another beloved pet.  He did not mind the hardship, the lack of water and the shortage of food.  Working in the fields gave him pleasure, and he took pride in the calluses on his young hands.  But he swore that he would never again watch the murder of a pet that he had raised with his own hands in his own house.  The Great Quachi must bring rain. 

The Lord inspected the corpse of the young llama, running his hands through its sleek, well-groomed wool, pinching its hindquarters to check the depth and tenderness of the muscles, bending its legs to examine their delicate bone structure.  He began to turn his head, and it was the wrong way.
    Tlati ran out of the alcove into the midst of his family, and he kept on running.  His brother Texco tried to grab him, but he ducked and sped away toward the center of the maze, toward the Great Quachi, Lord of the Sky.
Father ran after his youngest son, afraid to believe that Tlati was committing this great sacrilege.  Nobody approached the Great Quachi without permission.  Surely the boy had turned the wrong way in error, meaning to run out of the maze and begin the long journey home.  Mother and the children followed, walking slowly and seeming dazed.  Some twenty or thirty feet down the path, they stood at the entrance to the central office, the shrine of the Great Quachi, and they watched their youngest son approach the greatest Lord of them all. 
The thatch roof ended and the walls opened into the central chamber.  In the center of the circular office sat a little man on a round stone platform.  Shriveled and old, the Great Quachi had deeply wrinkled skin and a round bald head that seemed too big for his body.  His chin lay upon his chest; he was either sleeping or deep in thought. 

Tlati stopped a few feet away from the Lord and shouted, “Quachi!  Great Quachi, you must help us!”

The family watched in horror, but also relief, as the youngest boy delivered their prayer to the Caller Down of the Rain. 

The shriveled old man raised his head and blinked repeatedly as if the sunlight were too powerful for his old eyes. 

“You must play your flute and bring the rain,” Tlati implored.  “The land is dried up, the crops are failing and the people are suffering.  Please bring back the rain!”

The old man spoke slowly, as if it were a great effort to push out the words.  “You want,” he said, and gasped for breath.  “Rain?”

“Yes.  That is why the people come here every year, just after the harvest, to beg the Great Lord of the Sky for rain to water our crops and bring us abundance once more.”

The old man bent his head and sighed, but he did not speak.

Tlati urged, “We need your help.  Our fields are parched and our livestock thirsty.  We must have rain.”

“So sorry,” Quachi said.  “The sky contains no rain for my flute to call down.”

“But you are the Lord!  You may command it!” 

Tlati had expected some sort of guards, or even his own brothers, to come and fetch him from this place.  Apparently there were no guards.  He did not have permission to enter, but his family was also forbidden to come into the presence of the Great Quachi.  They waited outside the doorway, peering in but not daring to set foot inside. 

“The sky,” the Lord said slowly and painfully, “has no rain to give.” 

“None at all?”


“Then what shall we do?” the boy implored, 

“Go.  Find a new land where the sky gives rain freely and in abundance.”  The words came out slowly and with long pauses in between, but the Lord said them with authority and the boy obeyed. 

Tlati bowed before the Lord, begged his forgiveness for this intrusion and walked slowly backwards until he was outside the central office and in the hallway with his family. 
The family walked home in silence.  His brothers did not tell their usual stories, having no stories as great as this one to tell.  Tlati felt the need to consider the story in his heart, so he did not tell it for many years after the family had packed up their meager possessions and faded away into the forest, far from the desiccated fields of their former home, far from the Lord of Hopelessness.
*  *  *

Monday, December 13, 2010

A great book about gnosticism and such

I just got this email about great book of interviews covering gnosticism and such!

For several years, Miguel Conner has engaged the most prominent writers and scholars on Gnosticism and early Christianity on Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio. These interviews with 13 leading scholars represent one of the best ways to get to know ancient Gnosticism, the movement that has inspired Dan Brown, Philip Pullman, Philip K. Dick and The Matrix movies. Read what the best minds have to say about the Gnostic sects, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, Mary Magdalene, heresy, the origins of Gnosticism, and the original teachings of Jesus.

Purchase through
Purchase Kindle version through

Elaine Pagels • Marvin Meyer • Bart Ehrman • Bruce Chilton • Stevan Davies • David Fideler • Birger Pearson • John Turner • Einar Thomassen • Jason BeDuhn • Karen King • Jane Schaberg • April DeConick

"a terrific and approachable read. It's a current snapshot of academic readings in Gnosticism without requiring a PhD. to follow it (a common enough criticism for those encountering these ideas for the first time). Certainly the most readable book on the subject to come out this year, and top of the Christmas list for your local Gnostic."
Jordan Stratford

“Gets at the Gnostics as they were, not as many people today would like them to be.”
Bruce Chilton, author of The Way of Jesus and Rabbi Paul

“Aeon Byte is one of the most exciting and far-seeing programs in the world of Webcasting.”
Richard Smoley, author of Forbidden Faith, The Dice Game of Shiva, and Inner Christianity

“A great help to all who possess an interest in and/or devotion to the Gnostic tradition. Warmly recommended!”
Stephan Hoeller, author of Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing and Jung and the Lost Gospels

“An invaluable resource for those interested in the history and continuing relevance of Gnosticism.”
Sean Martin, author of The Gnostics: The First Christian Heretics, The Cathars, and The Knights Templar

“Sophia and her aeonic friends should be delighted.”
Marvin Meyer, author of The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, The Gospels of Mary

“You are holding in your hands a Gnostic gem, a book that contains the rich wisdom of thirteen world-renowned scholars who study Gnosticism and the classical world.”
April D. DeConick, author of The Thirteenth Apostle

Bardic Press



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

PKD memoir reviewed

Firebright has been reviewed at sfbook dot com:


Excerpt from the review:

Much of the writing that concerns PKD's visions, hallucinations or beliefs are told without prejudice or judgement, it's left up to the reader to decide what they believe he really saw and felt.

I am also staggered to see just how many very famous people PKD knew, which include the great scifi authors Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, KW Jeter (who wrote a sequel to Bladerunner) and even a phone call from the late John Lennon.

Remembering Firebright is a bittersweet journey told in an raw, honest and heartfelt way, a must for any PKD fan.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Mnemosyne - memory

In Greek myth. Mnemosyne was the goddess of memory and the mother of the Muses*. She resided over a pool in Hades where dead souls could drink and recover their memories of life in some place other than Earth - some would call it Paradise or the Elysian Fields.

Most dead souls were supposed to drink from the river Lethe in order to forget their earthly sorrows, so they would not remember their past lives when they reincarnated.

Initiates into the Orphic mysteries were encouraged to drink from the pool of remembering, without drinking from the river of forgetfulness. In that way, they could remember all their past lives, including their life in Paradise or the Elysian fields.

Sometimes I think that I should have drunk from the river of forgetfulness. I have distinct memories of playing in a room filled with white light, waiting to be born into this life. I did not want to choose the family that Grandfather showed us on the screen, and neither did any of my five companions, but Grandfather refused to let any of us get born until one of us chose that family.

Grandfather looked like the Bible illustrations of Moses - tall, white hair and long beard, wearing a white robe and carrying a walking stick. He spent most of his time working in the garden just outside our play room.

We were all children, about 6 years old, and although we had fun in the play room, we all wanted to get born.


* The nine Muses were the children of Mnemosyne and Zeus. Three of them, the best known Muses, were those who spun the thread of life (Clotho), measured that thread (Lachesis) and cut the thread (Atropos).


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Three books to review - where to start?

Three books to review - where to start?

Beyond Vision
by Merlin Spinoza

The Guardians by Bob Ryan

A Kindred Spirit
by ej Morgan

Sadly, Merlin Spinoza passed away last April, so I guess he won't mind if I move his book to the bottom of the list. It is an amazing tale of alternate worlds, but it can wait.

I haven't actually opened Bob Ryan's book, a paranormal murder mystery, although I do very much look forward to reading it.

So let's start with ej Morgan's book, A Kindred Spirit. I've read a few pages, and it is a page turner, but life keeps interfering with art. So here's some info from the author's blog, plus a link to the blog:

AKS is short for A Kindred Spirit, a new novel. "What's it about?" you ask. Now famous "sci-Fi" writer Philip K Dick is dead, but he's not done. Join Phil (the Prince of Pulp), his long-dead "cross-bonded" cohort Bishop James Pike, and young investigative reporter Niki Perceval on a journey through time and space to discover what's really real.