It was the Lemurians, honest.

In a fit of whimsy (I have them often) I set out to write a book which takes as its starting point the idea that the ‘kooky new-age ideas’, everything you might find in the Fortean Times, from Mystic Crystals to Lemuria to Burrowing Llamas… is, if not actually per se ‘true’ but had its origins in something that, with broken telephone style oral tradition, gave birth to the idea. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek story… pure and unrestrained space opera, with disbelief suspended because the reader chooses to let go and enjoy, rather than being (for want of a better word) conned into going along with what superficially seems sort-of plausible.

I say this and I’ll have people in tinfoil hats accusing me of betraying the secrets of the Ancients.  The principal secret of the ancients seems to have been to live much shorter lives. The other secrets, such as women having perhaps two dresses, and there being no flush toilets are considered too unbelievable to even be used in fiction these days. Now I have betrayed those mystical secrets, can we move on?

The past really is another country though, if only because there are things which even in the most primitive modern places on earth have been thought about and heard of, that were outside the wildest dreams of people before such things were even thought of.  Humans have proved remarkably adaptable to these new things – mobile phones in the jungles of Congo, for example. They might have no idea how they work, but they sure know how to use them. That bodes rather well for us adapting to an encounter with aliens in advance of us. In three weeks we’d be using Quoquosh cold fusion matter transmitters as if we were born to them – and we’d adapt our way of thinking and society around them.  But that’s the future. Short of positing time travel (some stories, sure) if your books are set in the past, if you’re aiming at even the vague boundaries of reality, the devices, the food, the attitudes, the world was… was it was.

I know, rewriting history is (one hopes temporarily, because it takes stupid to whole new level –you can’t learn much from the past if the past is wholly imaginary) currently fashionable.  One has to balance assumptions about that past (as for instance taught in far too many educational institutions and not questioned) with the fact that a lot of ardent readers will pick up your book BECAUSE it has a historical slant that interests them (Alternate history readers particularly, but fantasy too).

If you think these ardent hobbyists are going to be quiet if you have your heroine’s zipper getting stuck in your Regency set fantasy, or heaven help you any detail relating to horses and their associated tack or to firearms… more the fool you. Write a really crappy book. It will be easier on your reputation and sales.

To a lesser extent attitudes and behavior are, if you like, more forgiving. I’ve lost count of the number of strong women (often also of various ethnicities, in societies where these were rarer than common sense) heroically championing feminist ideals across the barriers of social class in medieval fantasy I’ve come across. Our modern audiences accept them, and cannot envisage a world the women of that time lived in. No, the beautiful feisty peasant maid wasn’t unmarried at 19 and didn’t have a large selection of garments, didn’t have the noble lord interrupting her reading or leisure time, and didn’t have a vast discretion in who she married.

I’m the business of selling books, not correcting delusions.

Anyway, to return to the New-Age mystic crystals and burrowing Llamas, and every other piece of Von Daniken to Velikovsky…

Look the entire story is based on ‘science’ to make the average scientist laugh… but so, realistically speaking, is an awful lot of sf.  And, indeed, authors from Hancock to Blavatsky have proved remarkably well that we like these ideas. They often outsell the supposedly factual (which, um, has turned out to be wrong at times, and probably will in future).  And of course it is fiction, light space opera, not masquerading as anything else.

There is undoubtedly a huge number of readers who will suspend disbelief and enjoy the story: ridiculous though it may be. But certain conditions must be met.

  • They must either trust the author, or get hooked fast.
  • They therefore need to bind to either the characters, the action or the setting (in that order of likely) or a combination of any or all.
  • You’re balancing an odd line between implausible and irritating because of it, and suspending disbelief because the reader is interested and possibly even amused. You’re stretching them on one aspect – don’t on the matters where you don’t have to.

And the last, in a nutshell, is why I have been researching Llamas, the Beaker culture, and Prezwalski’s horses.

Image by TPHeinz from Pixabay

39 comments

    1. Please. He said that the world “superficially seems sort-of plausible” not that it was complete bizarre-o land.

      1. Oh, I don’t know. Socialism seems to work well for species with a hive mind, or single consciousness. Doesn’t work worth a handful of beans with humans.

        But then people aren’t all that interested in the alien’s point of view in Ender’s Game either. It’s the human element that draws us in. A history of the Formics? Boring.

        1. But for the people who want to drastically reduce the human population it probably sounds great! And this time they’ll have the environmentalism built in, so it’ll all be good! /sarc

          1. You must be joking, Ori. 🙂 I showed them as individuals – some good, and some bad, not some special class singled out for special perks and by definition ‘good’. Anathema!

  1. There are so many implausibles in real history that sometimes alt-history seems too tidy and logical. I mean, really, an entire country going bankrupt over… tulip bulbs? A panicky corporal causing Napoleon to lose his entire army? One man inheriting ownership of half the planet?

    Riiiiight. Can’t happen.

    [For the disbelieving, look up Tulipmania, the Battle of Leipzig, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V]

    1. I’m having loads of fun incorporating real, honest, verifiable 19th century attitudes about things like marriage, slavery, etc. into the current WIP, Yes, there were real, well-intentioned people who justified the “peculiar institution”, and a thirty-five year old man courting a 17-year old girl with marital intent was perfectly acceptable … so many things that were perfectly acceptable then that seem to be anathema to the 21st century wokerati … frankly, I’m looking forward to the display of exploding heads.
      ‘Cept for the mess, of course.

      1. Wait a minute. Spontaneous combustion, of course, I remember reading about those. People who just go up in torches! WOW! Exploding heads, though… do you suppose it’s because the secret CIA implants have faulty batteries? Probably made in China, huh? I wonder when that started… Thanks for the warning, I’ll keep an eye out for that. I wonder if we should start training for such incidents? Keep your helmet on at all times, to protect the people around you…

      2. Whereas today if the 35yo man courted an 18yo (for countries where that’s the age of consent) it would be entirely acceptable, as long his intentions *didn’t* involve anything long-term let alone marriage…

    2. The random noise is missing. . .

      Also if you turn it on someone’s survival — what if Catherine of Aragon’s son had lived? Or what if Prince Arthur had lived long enough that Catherine had his child? — much would be determined by what has to be an arbitrary choice of personality for the survivor.

  2. To my jaded eye, most of the New Age malarkey can be reduced to the old serpent’s promise: “Ye shall be as gods”, all dressed up in motley, and carrying a rubber chicken.
    .
    Some of it’s more entertaining than other bits.
    Mu versus the sacred properties of crocodile crap. (Although YMMV on which has the advantage. Especially if your tongue is firmly in cheek.)

  3. Lemuria?

    Never existed and I should know.

    I visited that time frame. 😉

    1. Lemuria existed. Unfortunately, their entire civilization collapsed the day humans set foot on the island of Madagascar. None of their elven-style tree cities exist anymore, since most of the forests have been cut down. Early humans committed genocide, wiping out all of the sapient lemurs, leaving nothing but their non-intelligent cousins inhabiting those scraps of space left on the island.

      1. Oh, that Lemuria.

        I’m talking about the so-called continent of Lemuria with a great & powerful civilization.

        The so-called Lemurians you’re talking about were puny beings who died out when one of them saw a Dragon.

        Group minds are more dangerous to a species than they are helpful. 😈

  4. I want to know more about these burrowing llamas. That’s a legend that I’ve never heard before.

    Do the alpaca, guanacos, and vicunas also burrow? And if so, does that wonderful vicuna wool get ruined in the dirt? Or do the minerals just add an extra sheen to it?

    1. I understand the burrowing vicuna have hides as soft and plush as moleskins; but so very much larger that they’re actually useful for garments.

    2. Lama: Tibetan holy men who repeatedly reincarnate themselves to lead others to Nirvana.
      Buddhist mystics from the Himalayas, with bonus ties to Shangrila, Hollow Earth, serpent men, past lives, and the Theosophical Society. (Not to mention the horrible plateau of Leng.)
      .
      And I’m just sleep-deprived enough for parodying the llama llama series of children’s books to sound like an excellent idea.
      Lama lama, teach us karma. (The rhyme is too slant, but it’s the best you’re getting out of me at the moment. )

  5. Are the Space Aliens going to put in an appearance, offering Great! Deals! On the New! Improved! Pyramids!? Because those shabby things in Egypt are _so_ minus third millennium! And let’s not even mention those cheap Meso American thing! Cheap Arcturan knockoffs with all the tacky steps!

    1. Now I want to read a story about Ancient Aliens fighting with Lemurians and Atlanteans over who gets to rule over which ancient civilization . . .

      1. As the Human authorities pause . . . “They want Egypt? Greece. Italy. And all these other places from the Bible, do we even know where they are, umm, were? I mean . . . It not like they could make them any worse, might give the local economies a boost . . .”

      1. Just remember that Lemuria was destroyed in the war with the Selenites. Mutually assured destruction–Earth lost its biggest continent, and the moon lost its atmosphere.

  6. I based the SF elements in my series The Book Of Lost Doors on 1960s pseudo-science for the most part, things like Wilhelm Reich’s orgone energy and some of the kookier interpretations of the Kabbalah and Von Daniken’s Chariots Of The Gods all tied together with William Burroughs Nova Express eschatology.

    Doing research on it was loads of fun, once I was able shut down my common sense filter and just go with the flow–everything makes sense! Everything is… connected!

    And, unfortunately, I did such a good job that I’ve had a couple of people contact me because they think I really believe this nonsense and I have to explain that this is fiction, and not real.

    And they probably think that the Men In Black got to me and I’m part of the coverup now.

    1. Thanks to having the first book in that series available via KU.

      I’ll look into it (money is tight right now).

  7. “And the last, in a nutshell, is why I have been researching Llamas, the Beaker culture, and Prezwalski’s horses.”

    Your internet usage history mist be giving some spook somewhere fits. ~:D

  8. I’ve always loved ridiculously advanced lost civilizations from the dawn of time. Too much Burroughs and Howard, I expect.

    And while realism can be important I also enjoyed the Oz books which ignores that and goes right into zany adventures.

  9. …conned into going along with what superficially seems sort-of plausible.

    Given all the nonsense of this ‘Reality’ thing you have, the idea of plausible is dubious at best. And consider who and what is saying so!

  10. And, having skimmed that, I ponder a purposely WRONG bit with a ‘woman’ goping on about some n-th lib. thing, and someone pulling out a FULLY SILENCED 190-MAGNUM revolver to do away with her… and his 5-legged SHIRE PONY (true white, no less!) not noticing anything at all. Not even recoil – after having galloped 17 miles from the the sailing vessel that…. you get the idea. Anyone NOT going “WTF?!?” hasn’t been paying attention… but I’ve been told that I am.. what was the word… oh, yeah someone said.. “silly.” As if I’d write that tripe! Grundig blaupunkt luger flug….

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