Mar 13, 2010

Bird Flu

With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. --Revelation 18:2

I often visit Half Price Books with the intention of letting serendipity be my guide. I wander through the dusty shelves, following the synchs. I was thumbing through the “B”s in the sci-fi aisle hoping for an Iain Banks “Culture” novel, but instead found this odd little book by Michael Banks and Dean R. Lambe from 1986. The Odysseus Solution - about a Trojan Horse from the stars.

In the normal course of things, the invention of the matter duplicator would not have proved fatal to human civilization... but the duplicators were NOT invented here; rather they were secretly introduced into an unready culture by aliens bent on conquest and colonization. The Plan was to present themselves at the height of the turmoil as Humanity’s saviors, and the plan worked. By the late 21st century, the aliens ruled Earth with an iron claw.
The Cweom-jik were birdlike creatures - large flightless avians.

After that I wander over to Barnes & Noble to see what’s front and center on the meme pusher's docket, and I’m greeted with 'Angelology' by Danielle Trusonni, and a feathered wing on the dust jacket.

The story follows a nun in New York who unwittingly reignites an ancient war between Angelologists, a group who studies angels, and a race of descendants of angels and humans called the Nephilim. The story blends ancient biblical pericopes, the myth of Orpheus, and the fall of rebel angels.
It’s all very Dan Brown-like (and as usual, paints the very rich - in this case the Rockefellers, as the “good guys”). This novel lead to a real world publishing house bidding war, with the aptly named Viking/PENGUIN winning the rights. Film rights were secured by Columbia Pictures, with Andrea Gianetti and DeVon Franklin (executive producers on The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) overseeing matters.

The plot is familiar enough to anyone who covers the Xtreme Xtian beat: angels/aliens bred their DNA with humans/apes who’s half-breed descendants were called “giants” or Nephilim:
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Genesis 6:4
Coincidentally, Tom Hanks, our 'Da Vinci Decoder' is on the front cover of Time Magazine this week: “Retelling History” or some such. Intrigued, I picked up the magazine only to find a glowing review of 'Angelology', which caused me to then go back and pick up the book.

Another big seller, 'Maximum Ride', is a series for young adults about genetic crossbreeding of human and bird DNA. I attempted to read one of these and I lasted only one chapter. James Patterson is no J. K. Rowling.

It makes me wonder... were the “Gods” a birdlike race? Is that why Horus is depicted with the head of a falcon, the angels with wings, and Quetzalcoatl with feathers? Perhaps the ancients were being more literal than we thought. I dunno, but if a bird waddles out of that flying saucer in 2012, duck hunting season is OPEN!


Anadæ Quenyan Effro said...

Beautiful connections you've drawn here again, Michael. Here ya go w/ yet another avian deity …. Thoth, the ibis-headed god of the Egyptians Whose desire was to elevate man so much that He taught writing to the fledgling human race …. but images of shape-shifting vulture-shamans were prominent in these ancient Turkish ruins, the archaeological digs surrounding which have rocked the very foundations of what we've heretofore thought about the early beginnings of civilization. Also of interest, Cappadocia, Turkey, a sprawling subterranean complex, which became a refuge for early Christian adherents who had to fear for their imperiled lives from an empirical & still pagan Roman occupation.

As for more on the reality of angels, Andrew Collins' from The Ashes Of Angels: The Forbidden Legacy of a Fallen Race, a synopsis for which one can peruse here, provides closer scrutiny to exactly what you yourself ponder on the subject. Well worth the $20.00 I dropped on my own copy.

Speaking of birds & synch winks? My wv for this is qualifts, quail lifts. Thank you for once more elevating our sights skyward, Michael, on what might actually be the flesh & blood origins on our celestial forebears, or at least the offworld miscegenators w/ the indigenous population of Mother Earth.

Concordia, Salus, et Pax,
Anadæ Effro ~ (•8-D

Esperanto Grrl said...

There's such a thing as a concept in popular culture that is far too trendy and omnipresent to possibly have any real ability to be interesting or frightening anymore, and just by using it shows a certain lack of imagination.

I'd count Angels in that category, especially cheeseball pulp yarns based around dime-store biblical demonology. This stuff just isn't cool anymore. It's so overdone, in fact, that even trying to do a parody comes off as unwelcome.

A modern fantasy with conspiracies and trendy theories about the "Nephilim." I tell you, it's times like this I'm glad I don't own a flamethrower.

Other things that just aren't cool anymore:

* Vampires
* Zombies
* Computer generated movies with celebrity voiced talking animals
* Fantasy worlds based on Celtic Mythology (that typically have red-haired female protagonists)

It may be possible to do something interesting with Celtic Myth or Zombies, but it would have to either be something really innovative, or something that is totally deconstructive. The way Neil Gaiman handled world mythology in American Gods, for instance, comes to mind.

By the way, I always wondered about theories in science fiction that said that humankind came from genetic manipulation. These theories probably made sense during the great Silly Season of the 1970s, but now that we know what we know about genetics and the human genome, theories like this are a little like 1930s adventure yarns set on an inhabited planet Mars or Venus: to a person that's reasonably scientifically literate, they require far too much suspension of disbelief to really accept.

The fact that there aren't any more sci-fi stories set on Mars or Venus (unless they're deliberately retro), but there are still plenty with the "humans are part E.T." plot element, just goes to show the fundamental conservatism of crank theories.

Michael said...

Anadae - Thanks, and thanks for the cool links! I'm just getting warmed up here, lots of fun to come!

EG - I'm not so interested in the trendiness of pop culture except when it happens to line up with interesting myths. Edgy and creative takes on extremely ancient stories only put the characters into flashy new clothes, which tends to obscure any deeper value of the story. The myths have become "entertainment" and are judged by their special effects - how realistic was that CGI angel flying sequence? It's exactly what Cecil B. Demille did to the story of Moses - ruined it!

If all the myths are to you is entertainment, then no harm done. But to me, some kind of harm, even violence, has indeed been done. Aeolus has been writing some really great posts on this subject over the past few months.

Esperanto Grrl said...

I know you're a fellow Star Trek fan, but one thing that bugged me about the most recent Star Trek movie is the way that Captain Kirk was treated as a living legend, a mythic figure that is the greatest hero ever, as opposed to a flesh and blood three dimensional human being. He's the same guy at the start of the movie as he is at the end and didn't change.

I've always felt the obligation of creators is to create three-dimensional characters...and their mythic elements and comparisons should take care of themselves.

I do understand what you mean about mythology being belittled and reduced to suit a political agenda. There was this one absolutely asinine, pseudo-religious series called "Adventures of the Book of Virtues." They had a selection from the story of Icarus - one of my favorite stories, one the most profound myths that had the most going on intellectually. It was a story about people trying to figure out the world: the human ability to aspire to too much and to fail.

The Book of Virtues, which had a "moral" at the end, debased the Icarus myth as a story of a bad boy that was disobedient. I was outraged.

One of the things that is interesting is the difference between literate and non-literate cultures. Myths are frequently the products of non-literate cultures with storytellers, where stories are made stronger by repetition and ritual. In literate cultures like ours, there's a lot less tolerance for doing the same story over and over: there's the expectation that stories should do and tell something new. That is, if you do Hamlet, you have to do something with it that nobody ever did before. If you write a book about Vampires or Angels, you have to tell a story or have a vision of them that nobody else has had.

You're talking about myths being debased...isn't having your creative power leeched off by overexposure the most debasing thing of all?

The elements that we as a society prize are novelty and unpredictability. Just watch how many people were bummed out by Avatar because you could predict just from the trailer the beginning, middle and end of that film.

Michael said...

I actually felt the only "real" person in the new Star Trek movie was Spock, everyone else was a cardboard cut out of an archetype. I suspect that was intentional. I have a theory that the original failure of the series was because Shatner was such a bad actor, but because he was, the archetypal elements of his role came through, which eventually lead to an almost "religious" following.

I sympathize with your outrage at having morals attached to mythic actions and characters, it totally misses the point. The gods ate their own children, raped maidens, on and on, and you really need to step out of the concept that the god or hero is a "person" to even get the reason for the story. That's why I hated the New Adventures of Hercules which made Herc into a buddy movie.

Anonymous said...

Given the human population's general fascination with birds, flight and angels, there may be some DNA mixing in there somewhere...

Esperanto Grrl said...

Mike -

A good book that analyzes the tendency to belittle Greek myth by applying modern views to it is "Saving the Classics from Conservatives." It's by the author of "Centaurs and Amazons."

Since Star Wars was popular, there's a tendency to view the success or failure of a lot of science fiction in so far as it appealed to mythic tropes. I don't know if I agree with that, even with the example of Star Wars.

What made Trek so popular, I suspect, was that it was a character centered series (instead of an anthology centered around monsters and weird mirrors), and a very adult series that took how ridiculously it was very seriously (instead of say, Lost in Space - a "kid" show).

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