The question was asked elsewhere: What’s your dream job?
Take Lost in Space only serious, ditch Dr. Smith, give them a robot with manipulators suitable for more than carrying an ice cube tray (since those are obsolete anyway), a decent ship with effective defensive weaponry, and instead of being lost the family is exploring. There you have it.
Hmm. So almost, but not quite, exactly unlike Lost in Space. 😉
So, for some months now we’ve been engaging in greater or lesser degrees of restrictions in order to “flatten the curve” (although now people are claiming it’s to completely stop–more on that in a moment) of COVID19 (which I like to call “Winnie the Flu”).
Few, if any of these restrictions make a lick of sense.
2002: Predicted up to 50,000 in the UK would die form Bovine Spongeaform Encephalitis (“Mad Cow Disease”). To date, there have been 177 deaths from that cause.
2005: Predicted that up to 150 million people would die from that year’s Avian Flu. In the end, only 282 people died from that strain.
2009: Swine flu this time. Based on Ferguson’s advice, a UK government estimate was 65,000 deaths in Great Britain. Actual deaths? 457.
So, given this stellar track record, the real question is: why did anybody give this idiot any credence at all when he, admittedly using undocumented 13 year old code intended for a then feared flu epidemic and not for coronavirus?
But, governments around the world, including those of the US and its component states, saw those dire predictions and panicked.
“Keep social distancing, stay at least 6 feet away from other people.” Why six feet? For viruses carried in normal breath it’s dramatic overkill. 3 feet, a fairly comfortable “personal space bubble” for most people in most situations, is plenty. Droplets carried by coughs and sneezes go farther, much farther than 6 feet. So in one situation it’s inadequate. In another it’s overkill. This is a case where “somewhere in the middle” buys nothing. If you’re going to dismiss the sneezing and coughing issue (maybe by expecting people to cover their mouths–which they should be doing anyway) then six feet buys nothing over three feet. If, however, you’re concerned about sneezing and coughing then six feet is as bad as three feet.
“Gatherings of no more than 10 people.” Um, okay. Ten people in the local Petsmart. Then 10 people at the drug store. Ten people at Kroger. Ten people at the local park. Ten people at a blot (call it a “bible study and support group” for those of a Christian persuasion). And so on. One person going from place to place and now all those people are exposed.
And a lot of things just seem to be so arbitrary. Married couple who live together sitting together on a bench? Separate, more than 6 feet, or be ticketed. Really? In what way does that make sense?
Man surfing all by himself. Arrested for violating quarantine orders–and put in a jail where he’ll be in enforced close association with a bunch of other people. How is “in jail” better from a perspective of slowing the spread of disease than is “surfing all alone, not another person in sight”? Boating (so long as no more than 10 people) okay. Drop a baited line off the boat (fishing) and that’s a violation. How does that make sense?
Then there’s New York. New York is a city utterly dependent on mass transit. So, shutdowns reduce the number of people traveling every day? Well and good. But with fewer people using the mass transit, the city reduces the number of subways and busses running, thus ensuring that the remaining ones are every bit as packed as they were before the shutdowns. Packed subway cars, a perfect breeding ground for the spread of disease.
COVID19 is largely harmless to people who do not have serious co-morbidities, to people who aren’t the very old, or with significant heart and lung problems. So, nursing homes are filled with the most vulnerable people. So why require nursing homes to accept COVID19 patients? Yet that was exactly what Cuomo ordered.
There is absolutely no sense to the restrictions being imposed on the American People in the name of COVID19. They range from the useless to the deadly. This does not mean that their are not things that can be done that would actually help the situation:
Wash your hands.
If you’re sick, stay home (unless you’re sick enough to need to go to the hospital).
Isolate those who are most at risk (the elderly, those with significant heart or breathing problems).
Really, you should be doing all of that anyway. If COVID19 gets people actually doing that then that’s a win. Not worth the other nonsense but, “it’s an ill wind” and all that.
But the rest? Not only useless but actively harmful. First, from the way diseases work, you want the low risk people to get the disease. Get it, get over it, and stop being a risk to everyone else. You want it to spread quickly and thoroughly through the low-risk population. By slowing that, you delay when “herd immunity” is able to protect the higher risk people. And then there’s the other effects of all the restrictions, the effects on the economy. People keep trying to dismiss that as “millionaires profits” but economic damage extends far beyond some millionaire having to find a less expensive brand of champaigne. It causes suffering and death for real people. I know I’ve said this before, but I cannot emphasize it enough:
Because rising unemployment kills people. We’re already, as of the last figures I’ve seen 11% higher unemployment than before this started and it’s going to go a lot higher before we’re through. Another figure I’ve seen is that each 1% of added unemployment leads to 2 additional suicides per 100,000 population. Do the math.
Because food shortages (which we will have) and outright famine (which, if we don’t have here, other people will because the food we normally export we’ll be keeping to make up the shortages here) kill people.
Because delaying other medical testing and treatment in fear of “the Rona” will kill people. This is not a hypothetical. A friend of mine had a breast tumor biopsy delayed because “elective procedure” (“elective” in medical terms simply means “can be scheduled” rather than “get him in the OR right now or he’ll be dead right now”).
Because people going violently “stir crazy” by being cooped up at home and not able to engage in their normal activities kills people.
This “shutdown” that people are trying to call a quarantine (an actual quarantine is where you isolate the sick and known or at least suspected carriers until they’re no longer contagious) also kills people. And nobody, at least not at the decision-making levels, is doing any kind of realistic assessment of the costs (human and otherwise) of the measures being taken vs. the cost of the disease itself. At least then one might be able to chart a course that leads to the least suffering and death. Instead, we’re getting a panic reaction, people running around with their hair on fire not even realizing that they’re just fanning the flames.
Oh, and those who are beating the panic drums in order to use the “crisis” for their own cynical political ends.
Elsewhere someone lamented that we have to either go out and die of COVID19 (or, as I like to call it, Winnie the Flu), or stay home and die of poverty. They lamented that we couldn’t think of “some alternate arrangement” like paying people to stay home.
You can come up with an “alternate arrangement” to pay people all you want but wealth isn’t in money. It’s in the goods and services you can buy with that money. Some people can do their work from home and continue to produce what they produce in their ‘jammies at home if they choose. However, not every product can be produced that way. Indeed, most cannot. Someone has to venture out into that risky world and do. the. work. to produce the various goods and services. It may be running machines on an assembly line somewhere, tending crops in a field, or delivering the various goods to where they need to go.
The problem with the shutdowns is less that people aren’t being paid as it is that the goods and services are not being produced. (Production of goods and service is called “economic output.”) That’s why I rolled my eyes at the compensation check sent to people because of the shutdowns. The goods and services aren’t being produced. Making more money available to chase that reduced economic output? There’s a word for that. (And, yes, I spent mine. The application of that word would happen whether I did or not, so I’d only be harming myself by not spending it.)
If farmers aren’t out in their fields growing crops and raising livestock. If those crops and livestock aren’t processed and prepared for market. If transportation isn’t available to move the processed crops and livestock to points of sale then. people. don’t. get. food. That’s reality. No “alternate arrangement” giving people money to stay home will fix that.
Now apply that to every single good and service out there.
People don’t need “alternate arrangements” to pay them. They don’t need ration books so they can get what some third party who isn’t in their shoes thinks they “need” (and no more). They need to go back to work creating the economic output that is the life’s blood of a decent standard of living.
Because food shortages (which we will have) and outright famine (which, if we don’t have here, other people will because the food we normally export we’ll be keeping to make up the shortages here) kill people.
Because delaying other medical testing and treatment in fear of “the Rona” will kill people.
Because people going violently “stir crazy” by being cooped up at home and not able to engage in their normal activities kills people.
Because the quarantine kills people too. It is only once you acknowledge that and take a cold hard look at the actual numbers on both sides can you even begin to chart a best course that preserves the lives and the quality of life of the American people. It would help if they would also take a realistic view of what the actual threat is posed by COVID19 instead of using “models” that exaggerate and inflate the effects of COVID19 (which the author of said models had a history of doing). It would help if they didn’t attempt to treat every place as though it were New York City with its reliance on densely packed public transport (no better way to spread disease). It would help if they’d base recommendations on realistic of the transmitability and threat of COVID19 and not use it as an excuse for instituting a wish-list of controls on the American People.
Instead we get people attempting to instigate a stampede: and just like the Plains Indians used to stampede bison off of cliffs, the folk instigating a stampede never do it for the benefit of the ones being stampeded.
The cliff awaits us. I, for one, would like to get out of the stampede before we reach it. How about you?
Yesterday I typed “The End” at the end of the sequel (sequels–I’ll get to that in a moment) to my epic fantasy novel The Hordes of Chanakra. I say “sequels” because as I was writing the story it just…grew. I ended up with something about twice as long as the first book. So, current plan is to break it into two parts. That makes the first one a little cliffhangerish (Shut up, spellcheck. That is too a word.) but with the two being done at once I can release them in fairly rapid sequence so folk won’t suffer too badly from fictionus interruptus. (I know I hate that–just get into a story and then…”where’s the rest of it?”)
So, to whet your appetite, here’s a sample:
Kreg looked over the four people in the room with him. They had lost much, all of them. Kaila had lost her mother’s sword. Keven and Marek had lost a kingdom. And Kreg? He had lost a world.
Kreg allowed himself the hint of a grin. To all appearances Shillond had lost nothing but weight.
The High Mage of Chanakra was dead. Kreg had accomplished that along with the destruction of the changeling armies that had conquered Aerioch and most of the rest of the known world. And in the doing he had helped King Marek, Prince Keven, Kaila, Shillond, and himself win free of the High Mage’s dungeons.
Kreg’s grin widened. While they had lost, they had gained too. Kaila had changed since Kreg had known her. No longer just a good-natured bruiser with a quick temper, she had revealed a keen mind that he would never have suspected when he met her. Kreg himself had become someone that his self of a year ago would never have recognized.
“You smile,” Kaila said. “I would hear cheerful thoughts.”
“I was just thinking,” Kreg said. “Five people now have to sneak back into Aerioch and raise a rebellion against the Schahi. While we can expect the death of the High Mage to cause such confusion that Chanakra won’t have much influence, these five people will have to escape the country, reach Aerioch, raise forces from somewhere with all the knights either dead, imprisoned, or enslaved, and then throw the Schahi out of Aerioch.”
Kaila seemed puzzled. “And this causes you to smile?”
“Of course,” Kreg said. “The Schahi don’t have a chance.”
In the corner, Shillond frowned.
“Shillond?” Kreg said.
“The High Mage was an idiot,” Shillond said.
“Be thankful that he was, father,” Kaila said.
“How did an idiot best Baaltor even once?” Shillond said. “How did an idiot gain the magical power to become High Mage of Chanakra? How did an idiot direct the conquest of so much of the world?”
Shillond frowned again and looked into his hands. “I fear that it was not the High Mage of Chanakra who was our foe. He was no more than a pawn. All of this was just one more deception within the deceptions.
“I fear that our true foe, whoever it might be, somehow has won.”
Early evening of the next day, Shillond returned to the room they shared carrying a modest basket of bread, cheese, and small flasks of wine.
“It is as we feared.” Shillond set the basket on the room’s small table. “With the death of the High Mage discovered there has been much confusion but the city has been sealed. Guards have been increased at the gates and lesser mages assigned to them to watch for magic. Troops search all ships before permitting them to sail and more mages join those searches. And more parties search the city for us, also accompanied by mages.”
“That’s a lot of mages” Kreg took a small loaf of bread and a block of cheese from the basket. “From everything you’ve told me I thought there would not be many mages in the world.” He bit into the cheese and grimaced at the sour taste.
“There were fewer than a dozen in all of Aerioch,” Marek said, taking his own portion from the basket. “From whence come these Chanakranon mages?”
“I do not know,” Shillond said.
“If gates and port be closed to us,” Kaila said, “How may we escape the city?”
“Can we scale the wall?” Keven asked. “Cut the throats of patrols and be off before anyone notes their absence?”
“And have those within the towers feather us from afar?” Marek shook his head. “I think not.”
“Then hide within the city.” Keven waved toward the room’s shuttered window. “There are many thieves and cutthroats here. Of what note are four more? Five, with Good Duke Kaila.”
“I am neither thief nor cutthroat–” Kaila’s voice rose with each word, then she stopped and smiled. “–but I may play the part if needed.”
Shillond sighed. “I don’t think so.” He opened one of the shutters on the window and peered into the alley below. “Of the five of us, King Marek does not speak the Chanakranon language and only I speak it well enough to pass for a local. And with three of us being veritable giants to the locals we would be soon noted and draw the searchers to us. And we cannot remain hidden in these rooms or again we would be noticed and found.”
He turned, leaned against the windowsill and folded his arms. “We must escape, and soon if we are to escape at all.”
“What about that seeming spell?” Kreg asked. “It made Keven not only look like the High Mage but sound like him. If you could change us, we could pass for natives.”
“It would make us look and sound like natives, but it would not teach Marek the language.”
“I could be a mute,” Marek said. “If I do not speak, I will not need to know the language.”
Shillond shook his head. “The spell will not deceive any mage who spends the effort to look. And with mages searching for us we would again soon be revealed.”
Marek sat on the room’s single bed and leaned his head in his hands, his elbows on his knees. “Is there no hope then?”
“Children!” Kaila said sharply. “Are you all children? We have walked the width of the world, slipped within the enemy’s own stronghold. And, when captured, Kreg did, from within his very cell, destroy the changeling armies that had conquered Aerioch and when questioned by the High Mage did slay him with no more weapon than his hands. And then we proceeded to escape from the enemy’s dungeons and win free to the city. And now, now, when beset by these . . . inconveniences, you give up hope? Children, I say.”
Kreg smiled and stood. “Kaila is right. We still live. We’re still free.” His eyes met hers. “Fear not for us. Fear rather for all the evil in Chanakra.”
“Well said!” Keven stood as well.
Marek straightened and nodded. “So be it. How shall we proceed?”
“We need to learn more,” Shillond said. “The seeming spell is our best chance to avoid detection for now.” He looked first at Kaila and then at Kreg. “Eyes and ears?”
Kreg nodded. “Eyes
Kaila laid a hand on Kreg’s shoulder. “And ears.”
Kreg and Shillond waited in an alley overlooking the docks. Keven, as the one who spoke the Chanakranon language best after Shillond, had accompanied Marek to inspect the gates. Kaila was prowling the depths of the city alone. Shillond’s magic had given them the seeming of random locals. He had admonished them to spare no effort in watching and to avoid mages at all costs.
The alley was little more than a crack between the adobe walls of low buildings. On one side stood a tavern, on the other a brothel. Rats scurried in the shadows picking at the garbage dumped in the alleyway. The shadows of the alley, coupled with the bright sunlight of the docs concealed them from casual view.
“We have not had chance to talk since escaping the dungeons” Shillond said. He had assured Kreg that no one was nearby. “You said that you destroyed the changeling armies but did not say how, only that you no longer can block spellcraft.”
“I remembered the spell you used to challenge Baaltor,” Kreg said. “You told me that even someone not a mage can cast that spell, only that spell. I challenged Baaltor. He…made me promises–send me home, even restore Bertan to life–if I would give up on you. I refused and, well, turns out that was the challenge and I won. The prize I sought was the means to break the changeling spell. He gave me that and sufficient power to cast it…once. Once I did that, the extra power was gone, but I guess I have whatever someone gets after a first challenge with that demon. I don’t know. If I have it, I don’t know how to use it.”
“That should not be possible,” Shillond said. “Baaltor is not bested so easily as that.”
“Easy?” Kreg said. “You think that was easy? Bertan….”
“I know, Kreg,” Shillond said softly. “But compared to what Baaltor could have done…. And you did not know to choose the form of the challenge so Baaltor could set the form. And to choose the challenge of temptation instead of a physical contest? He was right, you know. Weakened as you were, he could have bested you with ease. And when you won, he went beyond what he was required and gave you sufficient power to cast the spell? Why?”
Kreg sucked air over his teeth. “Because it’s what he wanted to happen.”
“He permitted you to win for his own ends. And if he permitted you….”
“Then maybe we’ve learned why Chanakra is so rife with mages.”
“That could also explain–”
Kreg held up a hand. At the docks a search party left one of the ships. As they watched the mage heading the party stood at the dock as the gangplank slid up onto the ship and the crew pushed the ship off from the dock. Oars churned the water as the ship moved out into the harbor.
“That’s the fifth ship,” Kreg said. “All the same pattern.”
“No chance to slip aboard after they search.”
“Not here anyway,” Kreg said.
Kaila frowned as she lounged against the corner of a tavern. Men passing would pause to leer at her scanty attire but would scurry past on seeing her scowl. Too often of late she had worn this particular disguise and wondered what she would do if she needed to carry through on the implied promise of her clothing and pose.
So far three men had braved her scowl. Each would wake, eventually, in the alleys to which she had taken them, stripped of coin and other trinkets they might think valuable, but alive. And each time she needed to change locations. So far she had learned that Chanakra possessed few forces ready to search the city but others were coming, drawn from other cities. Eventually she and her companions would no longer be able to hide within it. Shillond was right. They had to escape and soon.
There. That one. As another man, resplendent in the uniform of a high officer of the guard departed the tavern, Kaila looked up to meet his eyes and smiled. The officer–a captain, Kaila thought–met her eyes and turned toward her. As he looked at her, Kaila arched her back in a way that she knew emphasized her breasts and pulled the hem of her tunic higher.
The woman on whom Shillond had modeled the seeming had much larger breasts than her own. But through such subterfuges as this, she had learned that few men would ignore even her own modest breasts if she chose to twist just…so.
The captain made no pretense of hiding his staring now.
“Is Milord seeking company?” Kaila let her smile widen. She let her mouth open slightly, her tongue touch her upper lip, and then let her lips stretch into her most inviting smile.
The captain looked her up and down. “I’m thinking about it.”
Kaila pouted. “Well, think faster.”
Kaila made no mention of coin. Chanakran law forbade the selling of sexual favors and the watch took that law quite seriously indeed. The law made no mention of gifts given by a pleased lover to the object of his overnight affection. And if the gift was inadequate? Why, not even a captain of the guard cared to face the wrath of the powerful, if unofficial, pimp’s guild.
The captain bowed and extended a hand. Kaila giggled, curtsied, and took it, grateful for once for the years the King and others had tried to turn her into a court lady instead of a warrior and a knight. Indeed, she hoped that her curtsey was not too polished.
She let the captain lead her where he would. Once some distance from the tavern outside which she had met him she stumbled and bumped into him.
“I beg milord’s pardon,” she said.
“Are you all right?”
“Milord is kind, but–” She looked to the left, stuck her tongue in her cheek as if gnawing on it, then to the right. “–I need to get off the street.”
“Are you well?”
“Please, Milord. It will not take long.”
Now it was the captain’s turn to look both ways. He paused then pointed at the opening to a dark alleyway. “There.”
“Milord is gracious,” Kaila said. “If…if you would be so kind as to keep watch. There are cutpurse’s about.”
“My lady’s wish.” He waved her forward and followed her into the alleyway.
Once within the shadows, Kaila’s left hand darted out. Her fingers closed on the Captain’s throat, cutting off a cry before it escaped his lips. With inexorable strength she drew him deeper into the alley. Once certain she was no longer visible from the street she held him pinned against the wall.
“And now, good sir,” she said, watching as his eyes began to roll back in his head. “Let us see just what you are about.” She released the pressure on his throat and held her other hand against his mouth, not so hard as to cut off air, but enough to muffle the sound of his coughing fit.
The captain snatched at his dagger with his left hand. Before he could draw it, Kaila dropped the hand which had been covering his mouth, grasped the captain’s wrist, and twisted. She felt bones break under that grip.
“That was unkindly done, sir.” She leaned closer, her eyes less than a hand width from the Captain’s. “As you might surmise, I am no street wench, but a warrior and a knight. And if you wish to live out this day, you will tell me all you know of the search that proceeds in this city.”
How strange, Keven thought, to treat his own father, the King of Aerioch, as a servant.
The seeming Shillond had given Keven was that of a merchant of modest means. Marek’s, of a simple workingman, shorter and broader than Marek’s natural giant size. Mute, of course, given his inability to speak Chanakran.
Keven wondered for a moment where Kaila had gotten the coin to fund their ruse then decided he did not want to know.
The cafe sat across the square from the North Gate. The gate proper stood open but twin portcullises blocked the passage through the wall. The setting sun cast long shadows across the square, a square filled with people seeking exit from the city.
Keven took a sip of his ale and let his gaze drift over the square. Large crowd, clamoring at the gate seeking egress.
Keven nudged Marek and nodded in the direction of the gate. Spear armed soldiers barred the way as the inner portcullis rose. Keven watched as the soldiers ushered two carts, a wagon, and a half-dozen people on foot through the now open gateway. One person tried to dash through only to face a leveled spear. The man backed away.
The portcullis dropped, leaving the little party isolated within the gateway. Keven could not see, but he could imagine the arrow slots to either side and the murder holes in the roof ready at any instant to rain death on those within.
A green glow descended from the ceiling of the gateway and washed over the people within. It held for several heartbeats then faded. Keven fancied he could hear a shout within the gateway. No. He must have imagined it. How could he hear even spoken word over the clamor of the crowd?
The outer portcullis rose and the party within the gatehouse departed. Another party, from outside, entered. As Keven watched, the outer portcullis closed and the inner opened.
So, Keven thought, they were only interested in those leaving the city, not those entering. No doubt they sought him and his companions.
Motion to his left caught Keven’s attention. He turned his head. Marek seemed different. Was he taller than a moment before? Yes. Yes he was.
“Come,” he said, still playing his role. “We have business to be about.”
Marek cocked his head to one side, staring at Keven then his eyes grew wide. He nodded and rose.
Keven dropped some coins on the table as he stood. Marek was definitely taller, his body shaped shifted from the stocky shape of a serving man to the more defined musculature of a seasoned warrior.
The spell, Keven thought. Whatever spell had caused that green light had, weakened by distance perhaps, had started to dissolve their seemings, their magic disguises.
Ahead, Marek pushed through the crowd, forcing a passage between the people and the buildings. Keven followed in his wake. Despite their faltering seemings, changing their appearance and their voices, Marek retained his true size and strength.
Marek now stood a full head taller than the tallest other person visible, his true size. Instead of the clothes of a man serving a modest merchant, he wore a simple tunic and breeches. His hair had extended to below his shoulders, the length to which it had grown during his captivity.
Keven looked down. His own seeming was likewise gone.
“There!” The shout came from the soldiers at the gate. “Stop that man!”
In the confusion, Marek snatched a pole from an awning that shaded a shop’s entrance. He swept the tip of the pole at knee height. Keven heard the thumps as the pole struck several men who did not move back fast enough. Marek reversed the poll, bringing the opposite end back around at head height. The crowd retreated further.
For a moment Keven hesitated. Marek’s great size marked him but Keven’s appearance did not stand out. No one had yet noted him. If he slipped away he could come back with the others and, what? Rescue his father? And if they decided not to capture but to kill?
He regretted that he did not have a sword as he drew the dagger from his belt.
Marek had turned, seeking to drive his way farther from the gate. Despite no longer needing to maintain their subterfuge he still had not spoken.
A stocky tough moved into the gap between Keven and Marek’s turned back, a club upraised in his hand.
Keven struck. His dagger bit deep between the ribs of the tough. The tough stiffened and dropped the club. With a practiced twist Keven drew the dagger free and pushed the falling body of the tough aside. The body fell to the ground, twitching. Keven sprang over it and shouted, “Run, father!”
Marek thrust three times with the staff. Three men fell gasping to the ground, curled around their own bruised guts. Marek darted forward. Following, Keven scooped up another of the awning poles and slid his dagger back into its sheath. A staff would be a better weapon in this crowd than his dagger.
Keven kept close behind Marek, his staff striking with careful precision to keep the disorganized crowd from closing too near behind them. He spared a glance in the distance behind and saw the detail of soldiers from the gate forcing its way through the crowd.
Unshy about using their spears to speed the crowd’s separation the soldiers were gaining.
They were not going to escape.
It will still be a bit for editing and preparation for publication. In the meantime, you can always pick up the first book in the series:
When even the gods are at a loss, all they can offer is a spark of hope.
Kreg lived an ordinary life as a computer consultant–safe, secure…dull. He was content, with his hobbies and a passion for history.
Thrice weekly judo classes and weekends at the archery range imagining he was at Agincourt or Crecy let him at least pretend to excitement in his life.
When Kreg saw a rape in progress he tried to be the hero and was struck from behind. He woke in a world he had never imagined, a world of blood and pain, a world that seemed mired in the Middle Ages. Trapped and despairing he met and befriended the rough swordsmistress Kaila and her wizardly father. With new friends came new foes, a horde that poured from the small nation next door in seemingly endless numbers that threatened everything his new friends cared about.
Now, Kreg was in a race against time to find the source of this horde, and to stop it before everything he had come to care about ended in fire and death.
Do I need to warn of spoilers of a story more than a century old?
A recent FB post got me thinking about the old Burroughs Tarzan books. And, ‘lo and behold, they’re on Project Gutenberg.
I got introduced to Tarzan by an illustrated abridgment of The Return of Tarzan (mainly abridged by cutting off the first part–starting with Tarzan as an agent of France in Algeria). Later, I found a copy of Tarzan and the Ant Men in the school library. Sixth grade, I think.
Those two books were all I had, other than the movies and TV show to go by but they were enough to show me that the movies and TV were a pale shadow of Burroughs’ creation.
Later, much later, I managed to find the novels in unabridged form and started working my way through them in order. I think I got as far as Tarzan and the Lion Man (book 17) before situations changed and I stopped.
Tarzan led to John Carter and to Carson Napier. Much later I read the Pellucidar books (I’d already read “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core”). My reactions to these various books ranged from mild enjoyment at worst to outright love at the best. And as I have found, they still prove quite entertaining.
Yes, I am aware that the attitudes in the books are quite “racist” by modern standards. But I also note that Burroughs appears to have been quite progressive by the standards of his day. While Burroughs’ Africa is filled with savage black cannibals, it also has the Waziri who are more “civilized” than many of the whites that Tarzan meets. Then there’s Opar, where it’s the white Atlantean males who have degenerated practically back to apes and whose religious practices seem to have been lifted directly from those of the Aztecs–human sacrifice to the Sun God including cutting out the heart and drinking the blood of the victim.
In my current reading, I found that there was an “associated work” in the Tarzan mythos–The Eternal Lover–in which John “Tarzan” Clayton was a minor character. Not available from Project Gutenberg that I could find, so I found an ecopy at Amazon and bought it (pic at the top of this post). ETA: Turns out it is available from Project Gutenberg. My search just didn’t turn it up for some reason.
By textual evidence I would say this story is set between The Return of Tarzan and The Beasts of Tarzan. It could be set after The Son of Tarzan and Jack “Korak” Clayton simply never shows up in it, but for me it just fits better in that first gap.
The story centered around Victoria Custer of Nebraska and Nu, son of Nu, of the paleolithic. In order to win his love (Nat Ul) he sets out alone to kill an Oo (Saber Toothed Tiger). He succeeds but is trapped in the cave lair of the Oo by an earthquake. And then wakens 100,000 years later when another earthquake re-opens the cave.
Eventually Victoria and Nu encounter each other. Nu, seeing Victoria believes she is his love Nat Ul. (The implication is that she is the reincarnation of Nat Ul.) As for Victoria, she sees in Nu the very image of the man who she has met in her dreams.
There is a rival for Victoria’s affections, whom she had been putting off because he simply was not the man of her dreams, who develops a hate for Nu. Events happen the two lovers flee, and another Earthquake.
And, with this third Earthquake Nu wakens back in the neolithic. He hasn’t killed Oo, for Oo has not returned to his lair. Nat Ul awakens from her own bizarre dream of having been Victoria Custer and… that is soon forgotten.
What follows is a typical Burroughs story of chases and near misses and misconceptions in which Nat Ul and Nu keep trying to find each other and coming so close but missing. In the end, they do get together but Nu has not yet kept his vow to kill Oo solo and bring her the head. So he sets out again. There is another Earthquake and…
We return to the “present”. Victoria wakes. It seems that she had swooned during the second Earthquake (the one that supposedly freed/awakened Nu) and everything she (both in the present as Victoria and in the past as Nat Ul) was all a dream. Afterward, she insists on riding to the south and there she finds, opened by the Earthquake, a cave. Within the cave the bones of a caveman with stone spear point and ax-head at his side.
And, frankly, if it were a paper copy I would have thrown it against the wall at the ending. This is the first Burroughs book that I’ve read that I have actively disliked. “It was all a dream”? Really? Okay, maybe more than a dream, but a psychic connection across time with a hint of reality as evidenced by the bones found within the cave. So, at best a tragic ending which is neither what I expect from Burroughs (The original Tarzan of the Apes is as close as he’d come in anything I’d read before) nor what I was looking for at the time.
At the store yesterday, I mentioned to an employee who was stocking the meat cases (such as they are) that the meat seems to be getting sparse.
He said “yep.”
This isn’t a matter of people hording. They’ve already got “limit two” notices for meats. This is because new stocks are just not coming in.
As the Chairman of Tyson Foods has warned, the food supply chain is breaking. Processing plants are shutting down due to Coronavirus fears. Dropping production capacity means that those raising livestock have nowhere to sell their stock and they can’t afford to keep feeding them, so livestock is being slaughtered and just dumped (Example here).
And folk smuggly saying that we eat too much (any) meat anyway, well, vegetable and grain production is similarly being hit and hit hard. (And that’s leaving aside that a vegetarian, let alone vegan, diet would be death to a person like me who needs to be aggressively low carb to remain healthy.)
One would think that anything related to food production and distribution would count as an “essential industry” if anything was but so far as the government shutdowns are concerned. While I can understand the concern about spreading disease consider the workers at a Kentucky meat processing plant:
The existing protocols to prevent contamination of the meat means that workers are dressed from head to toe in protective gear. They are gloved and masked as a matter of course. While this particular image does not show it, in others that I have seen at least in some places they wear face shields. You couldn’t ask for better precautions to prevent the spread of disease within the plant itself. I’ve seen hospital medical workers less protected.
To be blunt, even in the worst of pandemics our food production and distribution is not just as important as medical care. It’s more important. People need to eat far more often than they need to go to the doctor. Those people in that picture are every bit as essential as the doctors and nurses at your local hospital. Without them, and myriad others like them, it soon won’t matter what the doctors and nurses do.
Unless immediate steps are taken to restore food production and distribution, then we are going to have serious shortages in the coming months and into next year at least. It may already be too late to avoid that. And that’s here in the US. The US is the largest exporter of food in the world. If the US has shortages, immense political pressure will be made to curtail those exports in favor of feeding our own people at home. Expect the same in other major food exporting nations such as Germany and the UK.
Food shortages here will turn into famine worldwide one, as the UN puts it, of ‘biblical proportions‘. (Never thought Ghostbusters would be prophetic)