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When looking at dystopian near-future books and their links to classic tropes of fairy tales, when writing The A-Men trilogy (www.trevillian.com) I wanted to open up the future with the past, and create a link to the basic premises of fairy tales and cyberpunk, neo-noir and, also in part, steampunk and dieselpunk.
One of the main sources for this was the fictional book of faerie tales written by Rafaele Juarez D’Alessandro. But in the real world, my source material was The Uses Of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim.
In the opening passages I was caught by a single sentence: “If we hope to live, not just from moment to moment, but in true consciousness of our existence, then our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in our lives.” Here is the essence of Jack’s quest through the dysopian world.
The faerie tale novel of D’Alessandro’s Forevermore contains a wild mixture of fantasy realms, each with a distinct flavour and setting. The book is broken up into thirteen stories, with each story having several chapters and being set in a different kingdom. The story of Forevermore surrounds the end of an age, a time when mortal men attempt to overthrow the old gods, resulting in the eventual destruction of the vast continent into a shattered archipelago. Below are listed each of the thirteen kingdoms, including passages from the book and links to each of the thirteen macrocorporations that control the near-space entraverse.
The story also covers the tenet that the source of much that goes wrong in life is due to over very natures. In The A-Men dystopian world faerie tales are outlawed and like such stories as Jack And The Beanstalk (which could just as easily be called Jack and His Bargains), as soon as the story begins the hero is projected into danger.
The backbone of this tale (like Jac’s in The A-Men) is about the development of an infantile boy into sexually developed sexuality. Through oral to fixation stage.
The axis mundi (or "world axis"), in religion or mythology, is the world centre and/or the connection between heaven and Earth. It exists in virtually all cultures on Earth, although it plays a much more explicit role in those cultures utilising shamanic practices or those with animist belief systems. It is thought that the axis mundi idea spread throughout Eurasia as a part of the Proto-Indo-European religion, more specifically as the world tree concept.
The axis mundi connects heaven and earth as well as providing a path between the two. The axis mundi is commonly represented as a rope, tree, vine, ladder, pillar or staff, among other things. In addition to the caduceus, the yin-yang descends from this idea.
In Talliston, the tree is a central theme and one of the leitmotifs for the house. From the roots of the Labyrinth garden, through to the rough-hewn beam that supports the Watchtower to the treetop chamber of the Treehouse Sanctuary, the tree is implicit in the construction of the house, its design and themes.
Many cultures consider a specific place, almost always a hill, a mountain or a pyramid to be the axis mundi. For example, the Sioux consider the Black Hills to be the axis mundi, while Mount Kailash is holy to several religions in Tibet. Often, within the same belief system, several places may be considered the axis mundi; in Islam Mecca is said to be the place which was made first on earth. The Temple Mount, site of the Dome of the Rock, is also holy to Judaism and Christianity. Other nearby sites that are considered sacred and are on hills include the Mount of Olives and Calvary. The ancient Greeks had several sites that were considered places of the omphalos (navel) stone, such as the oracle at Delphi, while also maintaining a belief in a world tree and Mount Olympus as the abode of the gods.
Many religious structures explicitly mimic axis mundi. The stupa of Hinduism, and later Buddhism, reflects Mount Meru. The upright bar of the cross is sometimes seen as representing a world axis, while the steeple of a church or minaret of a mosque indicates a place where the earthly and the divine meet. In Mesopotamian civilizations, the ziggurat works as an axis mundi. Structures such as maypoles in pre-Christian Europe, linked to the Saxons' Irminsul, and totem poles among Pacific Northwest Native Americans also formed local or temporary world axes.
Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Jerusalem, specifically, the Temple
Cross of crucifixion
Mecca, specifically, the Kaaba; focus of Muslim prayer and where Adam descended from heaven
Dome of the Rock where Muhammad ascended to heaven
Land of Punt
Mount Meru in Hinduism
Bodhi tree where Gautama Buddha found Enlightenment
Stupa in Buddhism
Mount Kailash regarded by several religions in Tibet, e.g. Bön
Jambudweep in Jainism which is regarded as the actual navel of the universe (which is human in form)
Mount Olympus in Greece, court of the gods
Delphi home of the Oracle of Delphi
Black Hills regarded by the Sioux
Lamppost and wardrobe of The Chronicles of Narnia where children travel between earth and Narnia and the world ends
Two Trees of Valinor of Tolkien's Middle-earth producing the light of the Supreme God
Orodruin in The Lord of the Rings, location of the creation and destruction of the One Ring
“Humans cause evil by wanting to triumph over evil in the quest for immortality”
Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death.
When I discovered the writings of Ernest Becker, I knew that I had found the deep core of why I had written The A-Men trilogy (The A-Men, The A-Men Return and Forever A-Men).
In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient. Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely. Some responses include the arguments that true free will cannot exist without the possibility of evil, that humans cannot understand God, that suffering is necessary for spiritual growth or evil is the consequence of a fallen world. Others contend that God is not omnibenevolent.
For D’Alessandro (and others…) pursuit of immortality, Forever A-Men is the revealing of his master plan, and of why he does evil in the name of science and progress. As the speaker at the opening of the novel says:
“Forget all that you have heard about supreme deities being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent. You see, I can make a rock so big I can’t even lift it, but while I have the ability to do absolutely anything where I am, I can do absolutely nothing where you are. Even though I transcend the physical universe, I still work through its physical laws. I have the power to perform acts of moral goodness, to make whatever I command to be morally good, yet still evil persists.
“Still the one named Maleore persists.
“The fly in God’s ointment.
“So what is the last truth? It is this: everything that has a beginning has an end. Even me. I stand within this sacred point in space-time at which the rules of ordinary physics do not apply. It has been my life-dream to reach this place, yet when I did I achieved not singularity, but duality. And the two must become one. So unless you listen, understand and act on what I have to tell you, that time will be soon. That future will be the present. That present will be past. That past will create the future.
“Ah, the crippling humiliation of being ineffable and still having to get peasants to do my bidding.
“So don’t ignore this message. These days it’s excruciatingly difficult to get anyone even to listen to me, let alone remember or act on what I say. And no one ever, never ever writes it down.
“I am the message in the machine. I am the Amen.”
In addition to the dramatised version of the first novel, CDBaby and iTunes now have an audiobook version of The A-Men. With voices of: John Trevillian as The Nowhereman, Jack Luceno as D'Alessandro, Leah Frederick as Pure, Katie Dehnart as 23rdxenturyboy and Joseph Andrade as Rafaele Juarez D'Alessandro/Forevermore/XEs.
Though I did not exactly model Jack’s journey in The A-Men trilogy on Campbell’s seminal work, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, I was acutely aware that this neopunk scifi would disguise an epic-style journey of self-discovery through the eyes of a broken man and his connection with the fantastical. For example: it is not coincidence that Jack’s real world father is named Seth Campbell Malorian. Now that the trilogy is completed, I wanted to plot this classic story arc to the books to illustrate the path that The Nowhereman tarvels through the course of the three novels.
STAGE #1: Call to Adventure
Novel: The A-Men
Jack wakes with no memory (the first of several awakenings) into an alien world – and finds that he is part of a military group in a strange ship. Immediately he sets on the quest of discovering who he is.
STAGE #2: Supernatural aid
Novel: The A-Men
Behind Jack’s journey is the voice of Nathaniel Glass (D’Alessandro) who guides our protagonist by way of three almost magical devices: the faerie tale book of Forevermore, his voice over jack’s internal communication equipment (Amtech Headman) and by interacting with the electronic and virtual worlds through which Jack travels.
STAGE #3: Threshold Guardian (s)
Novel: The A-Men
The Threshold Guardian's job is to ensure the protagonist is worthy of passing the threshold, and thus they act as part of the tests the protagonist must face in the journey. Here Jack encounters Esther who acts as his conduit back into the real world and connects him with his mission. She also is the one who aids him in piecing together his life, both here and later in the book by providing the means to access his personal files and date from the Stream.
STAGE #4: Threshold (beginning of transformation)
Novel: End of The A-Men
By the end of the first novel, Jack is presented with Esther’s speech about his ability to be god and how the job of any messiah is to show that the only person able to save oneself *is* one’s self.
STAGE #5: Challenges and Temptations
Novel: The A-Men Return
The second novel is a hotbed of challenges and temptations for Jack. Being a lone resident in Dead City he is exposed to the need to survive at all costs. He is in a constant state of risk, and with the appearance in his life of Esther and Susie, is emotionally forced to change and grow.
STAGE #6: Revelation
Novel: The A-Men Return
Jack’s vulnerability on the subject of the faerie tale world of Forevermore and his quest to find the island where Death never treads, leads him to discover that it has been D’Alessandro’s desire to control the world he set out to create. Far too late, Jack discovers that, simplistically put, his focus should have been the people and not the place.
STAGE #7: Abyss: death and rebirth
Novel: End of The A-Men Return and start of Forever A-Men
The eventual descent into the darkness of the freezing ocean is a stark image of falling into life’s abyss, yet after this, Jack awakens in the land of Forevermore as the godking of Nowhereland. Now he can begin his atonement and redemption.
STAGE #8: Transformation
Novel: Forever A-Men
After this moment of death and rebirth, Jack is retrained in the new laws and lores of the faerie tale world made real. This is his travel in the Otherworld, a time when he begins to question the reality of Dead City and the earlier adventures.
STAGE #9: Atonement
Novel: Forever A-Men
Jack’s battle with the forces of both the Amen (God) and the fayking Maleore (Devil) are played out to conclusion. Jack becomes hero of his own world.
STAGE #10: Return (Gift of the Goddess)
Novel: Forever A-Men
Jack returns to the known world, while Nathaniel’s deposition, allows Esther to become the goddess of Forevermore, and the maternal replacing the paternal and all-masculine completes the balancing cycle.
The fairy tale represents extremely well the inner workings of the human psyche. Erikson, in his model of the human life-cycle, suggests that the ideal human being develops through what he calls “phase-specific psychosocial crises” if he achieves the ideal goals of each phase in succession. These crises in their sequence are:
• First, basic trust
• Second, autonomy
• Third, initiative
• Fourth, industry
• Fifth, identity
Having solved these, one becomes ready for true intimacy with the other. In The A-Men, I wanted to have at the back of the story the hero's journey --- or monomyth.This term first came into use in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) Joseph Campbell's seminal work of comparative mythology. In this publication, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies. While speculative fiction is packed chock full with hero's journey's (especially seen in fantasy epics), I felt that in a fractured scifi future the need for identity would be even more acutely needed than now.
Readers are starting to comment about the references (some more obvious than others) of the fairy tale elements in the trilogy, and with Forever A-Men catapulting us into the pages of Jack's storybook, Forevermore, in March 2012 I thought it was good time to revisit some of these.
The Big Sleep
Many faerie tale heroes at some point fall into sleep or are reborn. Each waking is seen as attaining a new level of awareness, maturity and understanding. In the first book, Jack literally wakes to a new life, and there are several mentions of his passing between the two worlds --- of the real and the simulation --- through the conduit of sleep.
The Sleeping Beauty is the classic link here. In original tale there were twelve good faeries and one evil one, making the 13 months into which the lunar cycle was divided. In The A-Men the number thirteen also plays a part; the thirteen kingdoms of Forevermore mirroring the thirteen macrocorporations of near-space (twelve and one controlling force, XEs – the evil queen of the storyline).
The Power of Three
In The A-Men every aspect is triple-layered. Words are repeated three times, hero's fail twice to succeed a third time, or succeed twice and then fail.... and this is a very old storytelling device. Take for example Snow White. In the sotry, the maiden goes through the escaping of three deaths:
• First death her laces are bound too tight
• Second death is the poisoned comb
• Third death is the poisoned apple.
Then, during her time in the glass coffin she is visited by three birds:
• First bird is the owl (symbolising wisdom)
• Second bird is the raven (symbolising mature consciousness)
• Third bird is the dove (symbolising love)
In this way is she reborn. But the underlying story here is that before the ‘happy’ life can begin, the evil and destructive aspects of our personality must be brought under control. This is, of course, supremely true of Jack who must learn that just by cutting out his past he cannot also cut out the bad part of himself; he must overcome it.
Who Wants To Live Forever?
Fairy tales, unlike every other form of literature, direct the child to discover his identity and calling, and also suggest what experiences are needed to develop his character further. Fairy tales intimate that a rewarding, good life is within one’s reach despite adversity – but only if one does not shy away from the hazardous struggles without which one can never achieve true identity. They also state that if one finds true adult love, the fairy story tells us, one doesn’t wish for eternal life.
At the start of the Jack is obviously a man without love --- either for himself or from those around him --- and so his dream and the dream of his character in the fairy tale book is for immortality. Only by discovering Pure and her love (instead of hankering after the 'motherly' role Esther plays for him in the first two books) can he realise that nothing is forever and that is what makes life rich.
From what these particular tales imply about man’s despair, hopes and methods of overcoming tribulations, he can discover not only a way out of his distress but also a way to find himself, as the hero of the story did. The unrealistic nature of these tales is an important device, because it makes obvious that fairy tales concern is not useful information about the external world, but the inner processes taking place in an individual. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the name emphasises the role of fairies in them, because in most no faeries appear.