The universe is not only strange but stranger than we can imagine

Epigraphs, Hunger Star

At the crumbling edge (Epigraph, Chapter 1)


Epigraph, Chapter One, Hunger Star


Since the Skellig Michael Institute was founded, its mandate has been to preserve civilization at all costs. We’re trying.  And at the moment, to be brutally honest, we’re failing. SocioCybernetic [1] analysis shows that our interventions have slowed, but not reversed the drift toward economic, political and environmental breakdown.

 Our race is now at the crumbling edge of a very high cliff. One step more topples us into the gulf of a new dark age, or even total extinction. The Dean and Governors have therefore elected to safeguard civilization by establishing our permanent headquarters in lunar orbit. This is a prelude to permanent colonization of Luna and, in due course, points beyond. Let us be very clear on one point: relocating HQ to lunar orbit does not mean forsaking Earth. We will work harder and more diligently than ever to head off catastrophe on our home planet. Our Luna initiative is the moral equivalent of taking out insurance, not of abandoning a sinking ship.

Dean’s keynote address, Skellig Michael Congress


[1] SocioCybernetics: the science (some say art) of computer-assisted social engineering. The Skellig Michael Institute is universally acknowledged as the leader in SoCy, a discipline sometimes described as the most effective way ever invented of meddling in other people’s affairs.

Daemons of the Die Back (Epigraph, Chapter 2)

ANgel of death

The times reek of doom.

Epigraph, Chapter Two, Hunger Star


The horsemen of the Apocalypse return

The four Daemons of the Die Back are essentially the horsemen of the Apocalypse in modern clothes. They have each captured a secure place in the popular imagination, with net clubs, holo shows and all the trappings of celebrity: strange confirmation of the power of archetypes.

Most accessible is the rollicking Lord Boom, the broad-shouldered, weapon-toting daemon of conflict, who wears a necklace of human ears and makes black jokes even while he aims his flamethrower.

Father of plagues
Next comes the sinister Dr. Tic-Tac, pock-marked father of plagues that destroy families, towns, cities almost overnight. He comes in silence, cloaked, wearing the beaked mask of the medieval plague doctor.  He departs with glowing eyes, followed by a parade of sullen ghosts.

Alien yet omnipresent is The Roach, who symbolizes the gnawing vermin of the world, the rats, the mice, the insecticide-resistant mites that destroy harvest after harvest. Insect-faced, beetle-winged, he flits from farm to field to granary, devouring all in his path.

The left eye of famine
Finally comes Auntie Lean, the gaunt spirit of famine, whose left eye now looks out — so billions of wretched people believe — through a hole in the blanket of the heavens. Auntie Lean’s Hunger Star portends the final cataclysmic crop failure, the day when nothing is left in the warehouses, nothing on the store shelves, nothing to sustain the hungry billions that roam the depleted seas and uplands of ravaged Gaea. It is significant that of the four daemons, Auntie Lean is the most familiar and the most feared.

Henrikus Grobius Jr. Daemons of the Die Back. A collection of essays on modern apocalyptic themes. Skellig Michael Press

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The Doomsday Swarms (Epigraph, Chapter 3)


businessman with gas mask watching TV

Who are they? 
Thousands of pious pilgrims, lunatics, penitents, con artists and saints, ill-fed, ill-clothed, red Latin crosses stitched on the backs of their ragged shirts, their only law that which the swarm’s arbiters choose to impose. Such swarms are constantly forming, disappearing and reforming, wandering across Europe, down to the Balkan Front, sometimes even to the borders of the Holy Land.

What are they seeking?
Some are massacred, some dissipate like mist on a hot morning, others persist for years.  What are they seeking, these armies of displaced people who join the Swarms? Salvation? Adventure? A sense of family? No-one can say with authority.  The Doomsday Swarms are a phenomenon not seen since the Middle Ages. What they portend  is anybody’s guess.

The Doomsday Swarms,  Signs and Portents, William Wanstall, Skellig Michael Press

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The Die-Back as entertainment (Epigraph, Chapter 4)



Where will the ultra-rich go if the Die Back finally comes?

Most have contingency plans of one sort or another: retreats to well-stocked hideaways in Tierra Del Fuego, year-long parties unfolding in small island fortresses in the Caribbean. The Die Back, their attitude seems to say, is not about the demise of anybody who is anybody. Certainly not about their own.

Consider the words of Hugo LeBlanc, aesthete and heir to one of the world’s great bottled water fortunes: “The Die Back will be a spectacle my dear chap, a tragic entertainment of huge proportion and several years duration. It will be the ultimate artistic event, Gotterdammerung in real time. I, for one, intend to have a front row seat and to savor the event to the utmost. It is the least I can do for the immense cast of unfortunates who have been thrust upon the stage to act out their dismal roles.”

Tap dancing the Pale Rider

Episode Three of Grave Dirt Under Your Fingernails, Educational Holo Series


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The Bureau of Devil’s Bargains (Epigraph, Chapter 5)



“To live outside the law you must be honest,” says the old song.

The Bureau of Extraordinary Contract Enforcement, popularly known as the Bureau of Devil’s Bargains, seems to endorse that point of view. It has come into being to ensure that parties to unsavory deals adhere to their commitments.

Headquartered in Berlin, the Bureau employs a strange assortment of accountants, goons, data specialists, assassins and assorted general agents to ensure that contractual agreements are observed.

The Bureau will cheerfully hold large sums, or even human hostages as bonds of performance, and will not hesitate to resort to extreme violence to ensure contracts under its supervision are adhered to. Its existence proves, so pundits say, the paradox that law must always rule, even in the most lawless of situations.”

New aspects of contractual law, UN Law Review

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Heirs of Sasquatch (Epigraph, Chapter 6)

Haiti Earthquake 2010Epigraph, Chapter 6, Hunger Star

Everywhere, forms of social organization are changing. In some jurisdictions the change is slow and uneven, a fading of old ways, an emergence of new ones. In other places the change is dramatic, sudden and brutal. Consider the fate of the former Canadian province of British Columbia. On the morning of March 15, 2046 British Columbia is a coherent state with a well-organized infrastructure. By the end of that day it is a huge district of almost total anarchy.

The agent of transition is Sasquatch, a 8.2 quake centered in the Georgia Strait. In a matter of minutes the primary shock and resulting tidal waves have reduced large sections of the Pacific North West coast to rubble, or drowned them altogether. Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, disappears beneath the Pacific — with all its records, files and data. In Vancouver most of the larger buildings are destroyed, together with the city’s bridges, primary roads and power grid. The ten-year old nation, still wobbly after seceding from Canada, is shattered. Unlike Washington and Oregon, it has no central power to turn to. There is no central government. No police force, no army, nothing. Yet life goes on, after a fashion.

R.H. Munson, Fractal Living: Studies in Social Reorganization

Skellig Michael Press

(NB: Chapters Six and Seven of Hunger Star are set in the quake-shattered city of Vancouver)

To live forever (Epigraph, Chapter 7)

Aristocrats 1


It’s now possible to live almost forever. We already have the means to keep an individual going for between two and three hundred years, what with organ transplants, so-called anti-aging agents, gene repair viruses and the like. Given the current rate of medical progress, it is certain that within the next century, advances will extend the span of would-be immortals still further. The one input needed to become immortal is (what else?) money.

This raises a superficially interesting social question: what impact will a growing population of very rich, very old individuals have on the frayed social fabric of this weary old world? Personally, I see this group as the new aristocrats: selected for intelligence by the impersonal democracy of the marketplace, wise because of their experience, committed to conservation because they have so much to lose. I abhor the detractors of this new group, who persist in seeing it as a sort of geriatric fraternity which has sprung into existence with the sole object of playing pranks on the less privileged populace.

Charles LeRoy Jr., Chairman of the Board, BioAge: Address to the International Monetary Fund

No direction home (Epigraph, Chapter 8)


The last thirty years have seen migrations and human movement on a scale unprecedented in history. On one hand are the hapless, teeming poor, scurrying desperately out of the way of floods, plagues, desertification and all the other assorted ills of the post-millennium era. On the other are the unattached professional classes and skilled laborers, migrating endlessly around the globe in search of career advantage.

The very concept of home has become tarnished, misty, elusive. As never before, we are living in a rootless age. So many of us are refugees, living out of suitcases, car trunks, cardboard boxes, desperate to go back to a home that no longer exists.

The third age of exile. Jean-Claude LaRue

Why Luna? (Epigraph, Chapter 9)

crescent-moonWhy Luna? Because it’s there. Because we conscious beings in this solar system need to diversify our portfolio. Because humanity’s leaders need a kick in the ass with a large frozen boot, and this is one way to deliver it. If the leaders of IsCo and the Accord and the Sinosphere won’t get out there for the right reasons, maybe they’ll be impelled to go by the fear of being left behind.

When the Institute gets to Luna, anyone with a brain will realize we’re on the threshold of the middle solar system, in a perfect position to claim much of the potentially desirable real estate out there. If that doesn’t light a blowtorch under some people, I don’t know what will.

And if it doesn’t, we’ll go ahead and colonize the area ourselves. We’ll build a private Luna shuttle and private transportation to points beyond. We’ll enlist the most motivated of the billions of people on Earth who want to move out. We’ll become a nation in fact, the first nation of the middle system. Grandiose plans? Yes indeed. Idle bluster? Just watch.

Ulysses on the Luna move. Informal conversation

Cults of the late 21st Century (Epigraph, Chapter 10)

santeria-2The second half of the Twenty First Century has more than its share of religions and cults. Some of these are born of escapist thinking or the understandable desire to flee from the unpleasant realities of the times. Others serve a more practical purpose. One such is Vitória, a street cult which evolved in São Paulo, presumably in response to the barbarously harsh conditions there.

Adepts of Vitória are trained in a thousand ways to survive and to pass on their genes. The avatars they honor are personifications of the attributes which foster survival: The Monkey (cunning), The Double-Edged Knife (trickery), The Rat (hard work) and so on… Even the more sophisticated adepts fear and acknowledge the power of these avatars.

A devotee of Vitória will never go a day without saying his rosary to the Monkey, or making the sign of the double-edged knife, running his index finger down both sides of his own blade seven times before taking food. This belief, taken together with the exacting mental and physical training required by Vitória, has made its members successful in their own milieu as well as in fields as diverse as business, the military and even law.

Cults and cultures — religion as a factor in social adaptation. Michal Rosenberg

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