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The Planet of the Birds

Primitive Terror Bird Warrior

This is the journal of speculative reality. What comes next is as speculative as any article that has been written in this journal. I do not know if this is true, I suspect some of it might have happened the way I will relate this. I have long believed that bird intelligence in some ways rivals human intelligence and if birds were the size of humans with a relatively larger brain they would be the dominant life-form on this planet, but I digress because this was once true.

In April of 2018, I read an article in The Atlantic entitled “Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?” In the article, NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt pinpointed the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 56 million years ago as the only time in recent history in which the climate suggests that there may have been another industrial civilization on Earth. He goes on to explain why he doesn’t really believe that there was one at that time, but his comments got me to thinking. Did any animal fit the profile of both big-brained and in the right time period to account for elevated CO2 emissions 56 million years ago? Did a creature that long ago create an industrial society? After some searching I found a family of creatures that fit perfectly in that ecological niche and I proceeded to present my findings and speculations at Liberty Con (a science fiction convention held each year in Chattanooga) in July of 2018. This article will summarize those findings and present to you a possible alternate past for our own Earth.

The age of Dinosaurs had gone out with a blast 10 million years before the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 56 million years ago and a plethora of other animals had evolved to fill the massive gap they had left. One of these creatures had a large brain, an upright posture, and had mysteriously colonized most of the Earth, crossing both oceans and seas. these were the Phorusrhacids better known as the Terror Birds. These birds had a long run in Earth’s history existing from 62 million years ago to just roughly 2 million years ago (some may have existed even longer in isolated pockets). They ranged from 3 foot up to 9 feet tall. They may have had articulated claws on the end of their wing tips (warning this is speculation), and they certainly had large brains. They were a very successful species and dominated the world for millions of years, but because their skeletons do not fossilize well we know much less about them than other species alive at the time.

What we do know is that they were wide-ranging. Probably originating in South America, they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Africa without the ability to fly or swim great distances. They colonized parts of Europe as well which was at the time separated from Africa by the Tethys Sea and they colonized Antartica (the world was much warmer). North America, Asia, and Northern Europe were already dominated by another slightly smaller cousin to the Terror bird called Gastornithidae. Gastornithidae was similar in size and shape to the Terror Birds of the Southern hemisphere, but seem to have been more likely herbivorous. The Terror Birds however lived up to their name. They were predators and at the top of the food chain. Both species had large heads compared to their body size and were probably highly intelligent.

Terror Bird Scholar


The Case for Intelligence


Does any of this speculation really suggest that the Terror Birds and their cousins were intelligent sapient species much less industrial? It is speculation, but this is what we do know about bird intelligence. A crow with the brain the size of a walnut is considered to have the intellectual capacity of a human seven year old. Crows and other birds can do intellectual feats that we thought only humans could do a few years ago. The Terror Birds had brains close to the size of humans with a similar brain to body ratio. If crows with their tiny brains can rival human children, what then can a bird with a brain twenty times the size be capable of?

55 million years ago the Earth was warm much warmer than today. CO2 had been pumping into the atmosphere from unknown sources. Two species of man-sized birds dominated the Earth. One in the Southern Hemisphere and the other in the Northern Hemisphere. CO2 had been released in two or more pulses lasting around 2000 years causing the PETM. Again, we are speculating, but could this have been the multiple rise and fall of civilizations pumping carbon into the atmosphere and warming the planet? We have two species that are candidates for intelligence dominating the entire globe is it possible they were not always on friendly terms? Could a conflict between two species of birds cause the rise and fall of civilizations. We know that about 33 million years ago the Eocene–Oligocene extinction event occurred. This event is currently considered to have been the result of multiple small asteroid impacts across the Earth resulting in what has been described as a long nuclear type winter and ending the PETM. This event heralded the true rise of the mammals to the top of the food chain. Terror Birds retreated back to South America and never rose again to the position of dominance they had over the entire planet, finally going extinct about 2 million years ago. It was a good run they had been around 20 million years before the Eocene–Oligocene extinction and yes, I am speculating that this was a global nuclear war that finally ended the Planet of the Birds.






Melungeon Dawn

Noah Denton (center) Annie Mae Thacker (left) Unknown (right)

These photos are a testament to what it was to be Melungeon in Western North Carolina early in the 20th century.  In the photo above is my great great great grandfather Noah Denton on his left is his granddaughter and my great Grandmother Annie Mae Thacker. Her father was George Thacker. If we are to believe census records Noah Denton is white, his granddaughter is also white.       

George Thacker on wedding day with wife Jane Denton

This is a photo of George Thacker with Jane Denton on their wedding day in 1910.  George is listed in the census as mulatto. Later in life, George would be listed as white on the census.  In the Appalachian mountains race was not always about the color of your skin many times it was about cultural perceptions.  From all accounts Noah Denton was white. It is claimed in the family that he was Native American and my own DNA test suggests that may have been true. I have much more NA DNA than African although I do have both. It is likely George Thacker was also Native American, his father’s family had been labeled mulatto by Virginia during a period when the state labeled anyone of mixed race Native or African as mulatto. I also have Iberian DNA. Which suggests that the stories of the Melungeons having Portugeuse ancestry may have some truth to it.

       The interesting thing about this is how secretive this information was for so many years. I did not know any of this information about my ancestry until I took a DNA test.  My generation and my mother’s generation had not been informed of our heritage. It was a secret I suspect that many would have taken to their grave. That secrecy is changing. My mother’s family is beginning to embrace their heritage. They are becoming more open about who and what they are. Some of the stigma is falling away. Are we seeing a new start, a dawning of Melungeon consciousness? I will be writing more about Melungeons in the coming months as I learn more of the secrets surrounding them. It is time we find out more about these mysterious mountain people. 

Dark Maiden Issue Number Two is out Now!!

Dark Maiden Issue Two is out now on Amazon. It is the continuing story of the resurrection of Joan of Arc in the modern world.  Three months have past since she was “rescued” from heaven by Satan. What price will Satan extract from Joan for her freedom? In issue two God has sent the archangel Barachiel to retrieve Joan and bring her back. Her only chance is to retrieve the Sword of St. Catherine. A magical blade that can vanquish even the most powerful celestial beings. 

Hounds of God


This has been edited to add a link to the comic on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JVSL8CH 

My new comic is going to launch this weekend. Hounds of God pits werewolves against all the creatures of hell. The premise is based on a court trial in Jurgensburg, Sweden in 1692 in which a man name Theiss of Katenburg was placed on trial for blasphemy. He claimed to be a “hound of God” a werewolf in the service of good who fought the minions of hell. This comic updates the story bringing it into our modern mythology of zombies and vampires. What can a defender of good do when the armies of hell are unleashed on the world. Read the comic and find out.

You can find the e-comic at my author’s page on Amazon http://amazon.com/author/jonathanbaird or come see me at cons for a physical copy. I will post direct links when the comic is available.

The Last Jedi Fixes The Force Awakens

The Last Jedi fixes the problems with The Force Awakens and returns it to the hero’s journey. While there are parts of The Last Jedi that could and should have been cut out of the movie. The Poe Dameron comedy hour along with the entire Finn and Rose adventure did nothing to advance the plot and needed to be expunged. The movie was also too long. Other than these two problems the movie is not only worthy of the name Star Wars it returns us to the original vision which was the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell wrote his seminal work on that journey in 1949 with the publication of his book Hero with a Thousand Faces. George Lucas has stated many times he used this as the template for Star Wars.
Heroesjourney.svgRian Johnson has fixed the scattered mess that had broken the journey in The Force Awakens and has firmly placed Rey back on the path. One of the criticisms of the movie is that Rey is a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue is a character that can’t fail. The Mary Sue possesses knowledge and power that is unbeatable. This may have been true of the previous movie but Johnson has given us a character with flaws and fallibility. Rey constantly fails. She is not able to persuade Luke to return and lead the rebellion. She is unable to defeat Snoke, who treats her like an ineffectual rag doll (no Mary Sue would stand for that).  Her greatest failure was her inability to bring Ben back from the darkside or at least from the middle ground where he seems to thrive. It seems the complaint is really that Rey is a natural at fighting with the light saber and at using the force. The problem is that a hero is necessarily heroic and gifted with skills. Like all heroes who have taken the journey they must be special in some way. Gilgamesh has the strength of the gods, Odysseus was unnaturally cunning, Arthur had a magical connection with the land that made him King. Rey has the ability to become one with the force. It is all the same on the journey.

If we look at the hero’s journey Johnson has reset Rey and placed her back on the correct path to adventure. Rey answered the call to adventure in The Force Awakens and then sought out training from a Jedi Master (mentor). Luke has rendered his supernatural aid. The movie has her firmly facing the “threshold guardians”.  Snoke and Kylo Ren represent the guardians of power and knowledge. Defeating them and learning her heritage becomes a transforming event.  The movie ends with the rebellion shattered and the new Empire rising. Rey has shown she has become confident with the force, she has been changed by the events, will Rey complete the hero’s journey?

This next part is speculative

Here is how I believe the Hero’s journey will play out in the next movie(s)

I suspect Rey represents Gilgamesh and Ben represents Enkidu (Enkidu was the companion of Gilgamesh) in Johnson’s overall story. If so it is very likely Rey and Ben will come to respect each other for the yin and yang they represent in the next installment (or they will be forced to work together) and go on to fight some great evil that threatens the balance (or both the rebels and the Empire). Most likely this great evil they need to overcome will be a relative or a person Ben is emotionally attached to. This is because Enkidu’s fatal flaw is uncontrollable emotion. I believe this evil may be a clone of Anakin masked as the new Vader.

Ben will die or be mortally wounded in defending Rey from the evil which she will defeat. In the end his spirit will ascend to become a force ghost but this will be after Rey journeys to discover some cure for his condition but ultimately failing. I would guess his ghost will be a different color representing his not evil but not good nature.

Rey will then return to the rebels and the empire to heal the divide between them, becoming the first empress and titular head of the New Imperial Republic. this is how I would script it if they are following the hero’s journey. 

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Pink America: The United States as a Native American Nation


I have been doing research for several years on the influence of Native American culture and genetics on early frontier European culture. At some point, I mean to write a book detailing my research into just how important this influence was on America and how it created a very unique culture from that of the European mainstream.

The most important thing rarely mentioned by historians when writing about American history has to be how deep the influence of Native Americans has been on American culture. Across the American landscape everywhere you look there are words in the local native languages. Parks, buildings, roads, cities, and even the states themselves bear the mark of our native history. It may surprise the modern reader when historian Jill Lepore concludes that, “most colonists considered the native language barbaric, even satanic.”[1] This seems antithetical to the notion that so much of the country is named with native words. Even in New England, the name of the state of Massachusetts comes directly from the native language. The state was named after the very people that the Puritans seemed to despise. How does the European colonist go from racial hatred and distrust of a people to venerating them on such a scale? This disconnect would suggest that the answer lies in a cultural cognitive dissonance. American society both embraced and rejected native culture and out of this mental aberration was born the duality of enshrining natives as both noble and savage. Could this veneration be the reason most American’s claim native ancestry, or is there something deeper?

In Lepore’s book, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origin of American Identity she attempts to find the answer to the question of what it means to be American through analysis of both sides of King Phillip’s War. While it is an interesting premise, there is some creative license taken with presenting the native side of a war in which very few written records exist. This means that the majority of the written records must come from the colonial viewpoint. Something that is interesting to note is the inability of the average colonist to write. Lepore suggests that while many could read a little that writing was beyond most of the colonists, “and as many as 40 percent of men and 70 percent of women could not even sign their name .”[2] This suggests that even the colonial side of the conflict is not adequately chronicled. We see a skewed view of American character, a view from the top down rather than across the board. So can we know what the average colonial really thought about their native neighbor or are we seeing in this history what the elite want us to see and what they wrote about their native neighbors? Theirs is a narrative that fits the expansionist governmental viewpoint rather than touching on the view of the common man and even the common native.

Another of the problems of looking at this from the perspective Lepore takes is that New England, while long held as the cultural epicenter of America, is only seen that way from within. While popular culture places the Puritans at the very heart of the founding of America as a nation, nothing really could be further from the truth. Their influence while pervasive in academia and as the progenitors of the American university system lacks the true character that makes America unique. The Puritan character is static and unforgiving a people who seem to revel in conformity. This is not the America of the frontier, which so influenced the works of historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner. While Lepore makes some valid points, her thesis is flawed. The American character is not to be discovered in names, in the Puritans, or in wars against the natives. The American character is found on the frontier and the people moving with the frontier. The American character is a product of constant change and evolution. A character that must embrace individuality and face adversity through action and flexibility not static conformity. Each step into new territory brings a new tribe, each different from the last, and each language confronted for the first time. The American people were forged from a union of native culture with European outcasts. The elite for all their words did not forge the American character. The American character was forged through cultural conflict on the most basic level and that character was often tempered by blood. Shiploads of men were coming from Europe into the newly opening frontier. Those same ships were not as packed with women. Yet most of these men end up married with families. Is it possible that the real forging of America was a union of blood as much as a conflict of shed blood?

Historian Ned Blackhawk is right in concluding that, “violence both predated and became intrinsic to American expansion.”[3] However, Blackhawk and to an even greater extent Lapore overlook some of the more culturally important narratives that were going on behind the scenes. While Lepore and Blackhawk both concentrate on the big picture of empire and war, these same Native Americans who would later succumb to war, by whatever name it would be called, had also been in contact with European colonists. Many of these natives especially on the East Coast had been in contact with settlers for centuries. The common colonist had no interest in war or conquest. These Europeans would often take native wives and learn native skills to deal with the frontier. In Sixteenth and Seventeenth century America it is the mother who does most of the early child rearing and it is quite possible that the number of native wives in the early colonial periods have been vastly under-counted. Current DNA data suggests that Native American ancestry among people of European descent in the United States is more common than had been previously thought (I myself have been tested and discovered I have Native American ancestry). It may be interesting to note that many of those men counted as European in early American society may have had grandmothers who were full-blood natives. This would suggest that the culture that fought against the natives for conquest of the frontier was not fully European but a mélange of native and white. Does blood quantum make you a native or does culture? That is probably the most important question to ask. If most Americans whose ancestors have been on this continent for over a hundred years have one or more native ancestors (usually female) does that mean they have at least in some small part native cultural holdovers? What does this mean for American society and our view of how we came to be? It may suggest that the cognitive dissonance which plagued Americans in the first years of the Republic, seeing natives as savage and as noble, was not a conflict between competing ideas about Native Americans, but a cultural conflict in which we see ourselves embodied in those that went before.  Were we actually a nation of European colonists or a Native American Nation? Cotton Mather might not like the answer.

Bibliography

Blackhawk, Ned. Violence over the land: Indians and empires in the early American West.

Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Lepore, Jill. The name of war: King Philip’s War and the origins of American identity. New

York: Knopf, 1998.

     [1] Jill Lepore, The name of war: King Philip’s War and the origins of American identity (New York: Knopf, 1998), 222.

      [2] Jill Lepore, The name of war: King Philip’s War and the origins of American identity (New York: Knopf, 1998)

     [3] Ned Blackhawk, Violence over the land: Indians and empires in the early American West (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2006), 9.

We have a New Anthology At Crosstime Publishing

We have a New Anthology At Crosstime Publishing

The Book of Unchained Shadows is out now. I only make these promotional posts when a new book comes out, so don’t worry we are not becoming an ad drenched site. This anthology features some very talented new authors. If you like horror, if you like ghosts, the undead, etc you will love this book. The stories are set in chronological order. It starts with a Viking tale and ends with a story in a contemporary setting.

The SteamGoth Anthology Series Has a New Addition

The SteamGoth Anthology Series Has a New Addition

g1ggI generally don’t push products on this site, but I make an exception for our flagship line of books from Crosstime Publishing.

This week Goggles, Gears and Gremlins debuts on Amazon and Kindle.

Click HERE

The Kindle edition is 99 cents so please check it out and if you like it try out one of the other two books in the SteamGoth series… (and if you really love them please leave a review with Amazon)

 

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Sorcery, Steam, and Steel

 

 

 

 

 
mmm

 

 

 

Monsters, Magic, and Machines