LITERARY SCIENCE FICTION--The Archives of Varok
As complex beings, anything we do could be amplified; nothing we do is without consequences.
This year has been a life-filling, exciting adventure, working with Penscript Publishing House toward the launching of THE WEBS OF VAROK, the sequel to A Place Beyond Man and second in the series THE ARCHIVES OF VAROK. What a delight to work with Shawne Workman, an editor made expert with many years doing science-related work for Silicon Valley businesses and SLAC. What an extraordinary pleasure it has been to work with someone who grew up with the ellls and varoks, watched their story evolve over the years, and now has jumped in with both feet to realize their potential as exciting stories for our times--stories to delight the imagination, "powerful stories that might replace old, more limited perceptions," to paraphrase educational theorist Tasha Chapman.
Our new musical "Petra and the Jay" enjoyed a successful production by Opera Alta on April 13 and 14, 2012 in Los Alamos. In 3020 C.E. a young woman with an identity crisis defends the personhood of her extraterrestrial and earthly animal friends, as humans tackle their most difficult challenges--agreeing to disagree and look for options, especially about overpopulation stress. Music by Alice B. Kellogg. Directed by Alicia Solomon.
In May 2007 Los Alamos Little Theatre produced "U.F.F.D.U.H.!" my comic opera based on "The Crystal Diadem." See the theatre archives at http://www.lalt.org. We had great fun and learned a lot, so it is revised and available as "U.F.F.D.A.". Now we are almost ready to produce "Petra and the Jay" a musical setting in 3020 C.E., a story taking on the current elephants in the room, like overpopulation and agreeing not to agree, and exploring concepts of personhood in teen humans, aliens, animals, and robots.
Currently I am still occupied with updating "The Archives of Varok," writing spiritual lyrics for A. B. Kellogg's melodies, caring for my domestic bird family and their caretakers, DeeDee and Scooter, keeping my xeriscape garden and acrylic painting under control, playing string bass and tennis, and enjoying with my husband a collaborative effort called "The Oil Patch Project."
I was born in Oakland, California, in 1937 to Jessie Hillman Jones Almond, a most loving mother and a talented organist. She could make sound flow in one delicate stream through the Methodist Church. In her early days she was a teacher of mathematics, then a devoted business partner to the love of her life, my father, Harold Russell Almond Sr. He was a self-taught marine engineer, veteran of the California shipyards in both World Wars, a trombonist who produced the sweetest of tones, a devoted father who never raised his voice in anger, a home designer and builder, descended from Scottish and English ancestors, a religious skeptic who had a joke to fit every occasion--the most accepting, selfless, level-headed man many people had ever met. When he was in his nineties, I recorded Pa’s Shipyard Stories and collection of favorite jokes.
As the child Carolyn Almond, growing up on our 40-acre apricot ranch in Hayward, California, I fell in love with “Moby Dick,” wrote tragic poetry, read the Oz books and Lewis Carrollover and over, and tried to imitate the beloved dog stories I read. In the fifties I graduated from Hayward High School, then Pomona College, with a major in Zoology-Chemistry and an unofficial minor in Religion. I married Don Neeper and we went off to the University of Wisconsin. After earning a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology (1962), I put aside a career killing mice to raise our three girls. Our son, who had a “different” cry from birth, developed the “Salaam Syndrome” at fourteen months. His prognosis was for no further mental development. The prognosis turned out to be true, almost. As a six-foot physically able adult, he still needs the safety and expert care of professional help 24-7 as a lovable character with a two-year-old mind. His story and what he has taught us lingers in my file cabinet.
Husband Don, a Ph.D physicist, decided he wanted to raise our girls in the mountains of New Mexico near southern Colorado, where he grew up. Our lives were filled with music and animals: shepherd mix dogs, chickens, rabbits, a turkey, loving rats, and a skunk named Streak. I played string bass in the local amateur symphony, in musical theater orchestras, with a beloved group of folk singers, and with the Los Alamos Big Band.
Alarmed by the environmental and overpopulation alerts in the early 1970’s, I began writing. I published newspaper and magazine articles, a newspaper column, scientific papers, essays, a few short stories, and book reviews for The Christian Science Monitor.
When my three daughters went off to college, I bought a computer to continue writing science fiction and, instead, started a small computer support and database consulting business. I also worked as a database consultant for the Merrick Corporation and for the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
In the last thirty years playing string bass expanded to include jazz. Computer time has expanded to include volunteer graphics design and acrylic painting under the direction of Jerry Yarnell. Reading has expanded to include complex systems theory, steady state economics, animal behavior studies, and upmarket mysteries. My family has expanded to include four granddaughters. An attempt to befriend a turtle has led to a full blown aquarium, and the trombe-wall heated chicken/turkey house built by nephew Bob Almond now has new residents. Our two pointer-heeler dogs guard the poultry, which include ducks who lay eggs for a young neighbor allergic to chicken eggs.
I still follow the lay literature in complexity, cosmology, animal studies, and science and religion issues. I study Herman Daly’s steady state economics and have written 5 related novels in order to explore how a steady-state economy might work and how understanding of complexity is critical to understand and improve our lives. My first- contact scifi story, A Place Beyond Man, published in 1975 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, Dell, and Millington, London, was re-released in June 2011 by iUniverse as an Authors Guild Backinprint.com Edition. Its sequel, The Webs of Varok, models how a steady state should work. It will be released in September.
I am a long-time member of the Authors Guild and an avid reader of writers' books and magazines. Every ten years or so I unearth the unpublished sequels to A Place Beyond Man and update them as The Archives of Varok. Appalled by some of the early errors in A Place Beyond Man, I rewrote it as The View Beyond Earth. Recently, since the concept of sustainability seemed to need a reality check, I reviewed Daly’s recent work, consolidated my studies in science and theology, and will soon be ready to release the Archives’ multi-species series set in an alternative 21st Century.
Life is full. I’ve been very lucky. Spiritually I’ve been shaped 1) by the strengthening, unconditional love of my parents, 2) by the faithful and indulgent love of my mate of 50-some years, who still keeps me growing, 3) by the books I have read (See the Bibliography), 4) by the animals I have known or met along the way, including wild dolphins, llamas, and scrub jays, 5) by the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel experience as a young, panicked teenager, in which I was told not to sweat the details, 6) by my sudden cure from crippling back spasms by Rolfing, 7) by the fact that I was rescued from certain death at age 3-days by inventive surgeons who gave me a shot of whiskey and sliced open a complete pyloric stenosis, and 8) by a recent near-death experience ending a twenty year search for the cause of sudden anaphylactoid reactions (aspirin sensitivity and exercise after eating).
Because of these and other transcendent experiences, I have a strong faith in meaning in life, whatever its origin mayb e. I am not convinced that we can learn all there is to know through testing and gathering evidence (science). Nor can I ever be sure my experience has led me to Truth. Everyone’s experience is different, but we can not escape the fact that we are material as well as spiritual beings--all of us creatures on this wildly lucky world that nurtures us--one of many similar worlds in a universe too huge to fully comprehend, so huge that everything not forbidden is probably compulsory.