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Book Review: The Word of God

You might think this is a religious book and in a way it is. The Word of God, or Holy Writ Rewritten, by Thomas Disch, (Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2008) was written not so much as a refutation to other religions, but, as Disch puts it, to establish himself as a deity. He begins his book discussing that the only way to talk to many religions, especially the fundamental ones, is to argue on their own level and point out that he too is a god and what his religion looks like.

It is witty, scathing, funny, illuminating. In part this is an autobiography of Disch’s life, but as a pastiche, not as a whole. It is part philosophy and condemnation of many conservative religions, especially Christianity. Disch was raised a Catholic and was publicly gay and since this is his “holy writ” it of course talks of religion in many guises quite a bit.

The book is also a collection of some poems and short stories, interspersed to give examples of birth, afterlife, reincarnation and judgment: “The New Me,” “Room Service,” “The Second Coming of the Christ,” “A Man of Mystery” “A Ranch House on the Styx,” “The School for Traitors,” “On the Road” and “Deus Ex Machina” almost all string together (some continuations of the same story) and of course all do touch on religion and the events that came together to create Thomas Disch. He was the illegitimate child of Thomas Mann, the prolific German writer and Nobel prize winner, though you will not find this listed in either Disch’s or Mann’s Wiki entry (and his father is missing altogether in his entry).

Many of these stories have Philip K. Dick in them, as a sort of antiChrist and in hell. It’s hard to tell from this if Disch had always hated Dick (since he wrote a poetic eulogy for Dick, which is in the book) or if he only came to despise Dick’s right-wing, bigoted, perhaps drug-induced opinions later, when Dick reported Disch to the FBI as a subversive. What the outcome of Dick’s confabulations were is unclear.

Thomas Disch was known to the SF community and was nominated numerous times for awards (and won some), but he also wrote a great deal of poetry, criticisms and other works, and had earlier aspirations in architecture. The book starts out in the present, around Christmas of 2005 when he began to write it, and he finishes on February 2nd, his birthday. Disch lived with his long time partner, Charles Naylor who died in 2005. Disch himself suffered from several illnesses and had a string of personal setbacks, besides being depressed by his partner’s death.

He took his life in July, 2008, just months before Word of God was published. It is somewhat ironic to read his words in this book that proclaims his deity and see where he was at and where life took him to. This is not his last book as I believe a posthumous work will be published this year. I enjoyed Word of God and it gave me a new look at Disch, his mind and his life. I had read his works, On Wings of Song and The Priest which was pretty scathing to the Catholic church while at the same time being deftly written enough for you to care for the very corrupt priest.

And if nothing else, I’m very curious as to what went on between Philip K. Dick, a great experimenter of drugs, married five times, and Thomas Disch, an openly gay man, all those years ago. They were both brilliant writers and characters in their own ways. Here’s to the god Disch and his ascension to his own heaven. Word of God, definitely worth a read, informative and entertaining throughout.

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India in Space: Bang, Zoom, to the Moon

What did Jackie Gleason know when he said, “To the moon, Alice. To the moon”? That one day without the aid of his hollow threats to Alice, that people would go to the moon. India has now joined the US, USSR, China and Japan in sending a ship to the moon. This is an unmanned, information gathering, two-year trip. NASA has also tossed a bunch of bucks toward it and India signed an agreement with NASA.

Back when the US was putting a man on the moon the USSR had to do so too in the Cold War era. Was it just  a need to explore, for humankind’s reach to go further into the mystery of the stars or was it a race of paranoia so that one superpower could have supremacy over the other? Later there was the Star Wars program and other scary propositions on just what would happen if one country got the big guns into space before the other.

When I heard India was punting a ship to the moon I first thought, “What, another country that has to prove it can do it?” But after reading a bit more, it wasn’t another case of one upmanship but an effort in working together to further research and for India to be included in the future. Space travel has always been phenomenally expensive and the only way, and the most logical way, is to pool resources, both financial and research.

There is already a group of countries (Insternational Space Agencry) that are working together for future space flights and plans for Mars. But there are countries that continue to do their work in secret, not sharing and suspicious of any questions. China comes to mind. Perhaps as time and modernization progress China won’t see the US as running dog lackeys and the US won’t see China as the yellow menace.

Between India and China they hold one-third of the world’s population, and Asia has about 61% of the population according to a United Nations report. As time progresses more and more races will mix and eventually everyone may have the same creamy brown skin. White people are the minority as population goes. It will be a good thing when everyone looks like everyone else and racial fear will be lessened.

World population is expected to increase from the current 6.1 billion (2000) to 8.9 billion in 2050. That’s a 47% increase in 50 years. Natural resources will be depleted even further and pollution will accelerate, perhaps beyond repair. Truth to tell, work on pollution should have begun thirty years ago when Lovelace put forth his Gaia hypothesis. So let’s say that people keep multiplying like roaches. That’s why there is Mars and moon exploration. Sooner or later the infestation will have to spread or the human race will die down. Personally, global birth control wouldn’t be a bad thing. Limit how many children everyone can have, but that could be ugly to enforce unless people chose to do so to help keep the planet sustainable. Go forth and multiply is no longer needed. We’ve succeeded to the point of implosion.

You could say China and India have the most to gain with getting some of their two billion plus people into space. But what if religious, geographic or philisophical conflicts persist? What if people don’t share? Then it’s a race not just to see who can get to Mars or the moon or some other place first. It’s a race to see who can colonize first.

The chance of shooting people from Earth to space is still a pretty slim and expensive possibility though there is the capacity to do so now. The chance of taking over all of the moon or Mars is also slim and a long way in the future. Like the world’s mosaic, I hope that when we get to peopling the moon and Mars that it will be considered an extension of Earth and all races will have equal ownership. That does mean that there could be religious colonies or ethnic colonies and that we could bring our grievances and hatred into the stars. There is the fear of course of some fanatical group getting a stranglehold first but the moon and Mars are still pretty big places and trying to enforce sole ownership will be nigh to impossible for a long time .

I’m going to hope that we slow down our population growth, work together in space exploration and maybe by the time we’re colonizing, the world will be one big happy place. I can dream, can’t I?

 News article on India’s moon flight http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/6073509.html

United Nations report on world population http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf

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