November 27, 2016

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Christmas Trees, Aliens, and New Adventures

This essay isn’t based on anything that happened at any WorldCon…it came from life events, something I read, or even just a thought I had. This time, it’s something that happened and that might be either irritating or relate to speculative fiction, writing, or Christianity…

After 25 years going to cut our Christmas tree at Anderson Tree Farm, my wife and I arrived this morning with our daughter, her fiancĂ©, my foster daughter, and her girlfriend – to discovered that the Farm had closed.

That got me to thinking, mostly to distract myself, about traditions.

Common belief is that there are only a few Christians left on Earth, and that they spend most of their time opposing Real Science® which means whatever The Scientific Community® (ie: people that all agree with each other and try to discredit people who disagree with them for any reason) (BTW – this is the same group that opposed continental drift, round Earth, heliocentrism (NOT just the Church as you have been led to believe!), natural selection (aka Darwinism (NOT just the Church as you have been led to believe!)), Pasteurization, bacterial ulcers, the theory of the human condition, genetic inheritance (discovered by a Catholic monk (slightly ironic, eh?), Avogadro’s Law, and hand-washing as a deterrent to disease.)

This is a prelude to my belief that not only will Christians go into space and maintain their beliefs, but that they will prosper, and others will continue to become converts – not because of the inherent “wonderfulness” of Christians, but because God will continue to work on the hearts of His people – no matter how many chambers they have or precisely where that heart is found. And Christians will carry their traditions to the stars as well -- morphing them as the enviroment and climate dictate.

So, a zillion years ago (2001), I wrote a story called “Christmas Tree” and had my very first online publication. The story involved an ensign on a starship crewed and captained by aliens. For those of you interested, the ensign lives in a universe I’ve created in which Humans are a very minor group of star-faring intelligences in the Unity of Sentients. What they knew in this story is that an alien civilization (federation, empire, hegemony, trust economy, whatever) created a pathway that runs not just from one side of our galaxy to the other, but from one end of the UNSEEN universe: “Based on what we currently think about inflation, this means that the Universe is at least “10^(1030) times the size of our observable Universe!”) to another unseen end.

The Christmas Tree of the title is a “map” of the exploration routes of the long-gone intelligence that, as near as anyone can tell based on stars and routes that the Unity has charted, has a base outside of the observable universe and a tip that would also be outside of the observable universe. Where does the “Christmas tree” start? Where does it end? How does it work?

Currently Humans and the other fifty sentients of the Unity, occupy and use a tiny portion of the middle of a needle of a fascicle on a twig on a branch on the trunk closer to the “tip” than the “base” of the Christmas Tree. The universe is incomprehensibly vast – yet at one time, some intelligence grasped it.

At any rate, my little ensign is disciplined for having ashes on his forehead during Lent. He then meets a monstrously huge squid-ish creature who navigates the ship from deep in its bowels and keeps the entire map in a compressed, Christmas tree format, on a screen at all times. Turns out the squid-ish creature is a Christian, too. The story is actually a vignette, but it was published and it’s been awaiting a revival.

The reason it appears here is because not only does it involve a Christmas tree (of sorts), shared belief, it's also about the importance of tradition.

It also involves my epiphany that even when a tradition comes to an end, it has roots that go into the past that cannot be lost. It also suggests that when one branch ends, you backtrack and find a new branch and move forward. Even so, backtracking implies that we might be able to boldly go where we haven’t gone before – and that where the stump is from the excising of an old tradition, a new branch might very well grow to start another tradition.

I'll keep you posted on the life story, the fictional story, and the Story of the Universe (which can be taken two ways, so I'll let you do the taking and leave it at that.)

Image: Personal Files

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