8 March 2011

James Hatch takes us behind the scenes...

“The Final Experiment” and Aftermath Horizon

Adam and Eve’s In-laws
I respectfully point out that God creates Adam and Eve in the biblical story presented in Genesis 2. Soon afterwards, in Genesis 4, they lay together to produce Cain and Able. To my way of thinking, these would be the first four people on earth, right? And then, soon after Cain and Able are united in brotherly love, Cain slays his brother and is cast out into the land of Nod east of Eden. It’s true, siblings don’t always get along, but this is where things get curiously interesting because, by verse 17, Cain lays with his wife to produce a son, Enoch. What’s wrong with this picture?
The sequence above troubled me for years because, at risk of blasphemy, if Adam and Eve were the first two, and Cain and Able were the third and fourth, where did Cain’s wife come from? Apparent inconsistencies like this give me pause; therefore, it seemed an appropriate question to address as part of the basis for Aftermath Horizon.
Now, I realize if God created two people, he could equally well have created more, but I tend to view the Genesis story more metaphorically than in terms of actual events. In that sense, it doesn’t trouble me that it only took six days to create the world and everything in it, a day being simply a period of time, and perhaps a very long time at that. Who’s to say day one wasn’t a few billion years in current time? But the creation of people was singled out and, if many people were created originally, I assume that might have been mentioned. Instead, the biblical account implies that many women existed as it traces the lineage of Enoch, in fact, so many that four generations later, Lamech took two wives. So where did the women come from?
Yes, it’s all speculation, but it’s fun speculation. I will attempt to answer the question, but before I do, let me introduce the concept of a “horizon”. In evolutionary terms, a horizon is where it all ends, where one species dies and is probably replaced by something more prone to survive. Like the event horizon of a black hole, the evolutionary horizon is a point a species should avoid at all cost. Yet, evolutionary horizons happen all the time. If they didn’t, we’d still have dinosaurs.
And now back to Cain’s wife. I could speculate that there was a lot of inbreeding. After all, Adam lived 930 years and had many sons and daughters. Some of those might have liked each other (a lot), and it’s quite possible that Cain wandered around for quite some time before bumping into one of his sisters in the land of Nod. I can’t really say because no timeline is given. OR, maybe Genesis is actually just a story of a new beginning—perhaps even of a new horizon? And if that’s the case, then Genesis might be the story of the survivors of a species that came…before.
As I consider the horror facing the world today, it’s not difficult to think of a future time when people as they are today will no longer exist. Some might survive an intentional bio-warfare atrocity, but those survivors would be different in some fundamental way, if only in their immune systems. And it was the threat of bio-weapons, combined with the potential horizon I read into Genesis, that led me to write “The Final Experiment”, and subsequently to produce Aftermath Horizon.
Both are G-rated reads and available at http://www.xoxopublishing.com/shop-online.

Here are the blurbs: 

Sample cover
 “The Final Experiment”*:
Following worldwide biological warfare, a small number of people survive within Cheyenne Mountain. Sixty-two years later, genetically modified experimental human E12-B is released to see if he can exist among the toxins outside. He barely survives, but returns to a face a nightmare of medical testing…where only love can save him. *This short story is abridged from the first five chapters of Aftermath Horizon, and is reviewed at: http://www.xoxopublishing.com/book-reviews/index.html.

Aftermath Horizon**: In a world struggling to recover from biological warfare, Cultural Anthropologists, Beth Gooding and Professor James, work to resurrect the technology of the past without the brutality of the past. They lead austere lives typical of the early 1800’s frontier, until they become explorers in Old World Syria – where they investigate further back in time than anyone ever dreamed, and discover they can move their society further forward than anyone ever imagined. David and Beth endure many brushes with death, but with each experience their love grows stronger. They come to realize life without the other wouldn’t be living at all. **Aftermath Horizon review: http://www.tonivsweeney.com/Book_Review/Entries/2011/1/28_Aftermath_Horizon_by_James_Hatch.html.

Aftermath Horizon Excerpt (told from the POV of the 16-year-old heroine):
As I step from the bus with my backpack slung over my shoulder, a man holding a sign that reads “Miss Gooding” in one hand and a dark green plastic bag slung over his shoulder with the other catches my attention. It must be Professor James. At six foot with ruddy complexion and sandy brown hair, he’s not what I pictured in my mind. In fact, if he weren’t twice my age, he’d be really cute.
I size him up as I walk toward him. He has a slight build, piercing blue eyes, and muscular arms, probably from digging up trash. As I get closer, I note the rough hands characteristic of all settlers. Life is not easy on the frontier. He’s dressed in blue jeans, a red plaid flannel shirt, and calf-high black rubber boots. Mud squishes beneath my feet with each step I take. I’ll probably need boots like that, too. I boldly step in front of him and extend my hand, “Hello, Sir, I’m Beth Gooding.”
He smiles broadly, revealing off-white, straight teeth, sets his sign down in the mud, and shakes my hand firmly. “Good to meet you, Miss Gooding, ready to get to work?”
Wait a minute; I HAVE been working! I ignore my thought and smile sweetly. I’m here to learn, not to quibble. “You bet! More reading assignments?”
He hands the bag to me and points to a nearby public toilet, a small building that looks like an outhouse. “Not now. We’ve got a little field work to do.” He hasn’t said so, but I think I’m about to be tested to see if I can stand the grime of hands-on garbage retrieval. Butterflies fill my stomach. I didn’t expect this “opportunity” so soon.
The bag contains clothing similar to what everyone here wears, but the size two jeans, small shirt and jacket, and size six boots probably means he has access to my personnel records. The 34B bra confirms it. Privacy be damned, everything fits, although the odor in the “changing room” is not suitable for human breathing! When I emerge with my new duds, Professor James and a horse drawn buggy await. I feel like I’ve stepped back in time to the Old World 1800’s.
The first order of business is a familiarization trot around the colony. The highlights are the communications center, the power generator, the infirmary, and the general store, but we don’t stop at any of those places. Instead, we go to the Energy Reclamation Center and proceed immediately to a large green dumpster behind it. Professor James grins impishly. “This is your stop.”
My face turns pale. It’s squalid. It stinks worse than the changing room, “The dumpster?” Frankly, I’d rather see the generators, fourth generation motors that use a mixture of reprocessed Strategic Reserve oil and man-made oil from re-cycled organic materials. I’ve read about V5 and V6 for years, the microbes responsible for oil production, but didn’t get to see any of that technology in Salvation.
“Yeah, the big green thing there. See if you can learn anything from what you find in it.” He remains on the buggy seat. The horse doesn’t move. The dumpster remains grimy.
I push back lightly. “Why would there be anything of value in there. This is a colony. No one in his right mind would throw anything of value away!”
He smiles and bats his eyes almost comically. “One would think. Check it out.”
The mud is four inches thick as I step off the buggy. Even with rubber boots I can feel the cool muck slither around my foot and over the top of my toes. Professor James watches with interest as I pull up a nearby wooden crate and push it against the side of the dumpster. I suppress the urge to vomit; it smells like dead animals inside.
I’m not deft at this sort of thing. Even from the crate it’s all I can do to lift my foot to the edge, slip my leg over, and pull my body up and over the side. I might as well kiss my new, clean jeans goodbye because they’ll never be the same. As I drop down into the gaping cavern, I hear Professor James and the buggy pull away, but that immediate concern is quickly overcome by the stench inside. I gag involuntarily and begin breathing through the sleeve of my shirt. It makes a lousy air filter but it’s better than nothing. I hope he moved the buggy because he was in a “no parking zone” and that he’s not actually leaving me here.
I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but find a sturdy stick and begin pushing stuff around with it, hoping to find anything that will buy my way out of this nightmare. After about five minutes, I absolutely must have fresh air and poke my head out of the bin at exactly the same moment an elderly lady is trying to put more trash in. She’s startled but quick witted. “Why, who would throw a pretty young thing like you away, dear? You look like you’ve got lots of kilometers left on you.”
Not knowing how she can possibly know what I look like with half my face covered by my arm, I grin sheepishly, motion to the edge of the dumpster with a sideways flick of my head, and choke out a muffled greeting through my sleeve, “Just set your box there by the side, Ma’am. I’ll go through it later.”
The old woman winks. “My, you are a feisty one; looks like ‘Mule’ got a winner this time.” She sets her box where I indicated and ambles off, leaving me to ponder what she really meant by “this time”.
After a few priceless gasps of relatively pure air, I dip back inside but still can’t come up with much. Mostly the bin contains organic recyclables, inputs for fuel pre-processing at the energy center. The foul odor isn’t from the contents in the bin but from the bin itself. Apparently it was used recently for holding carcasses, another energy recyclable.
Professor James returns an hour later, helps me out of the bin, and with a cheery attitude asks, “I can hardly wait, what did you learn?”
I pick up the box left by the old woman. “Hold that thought a minute, Sir, I’m not quite finished.”
The contents of the old woman’s box are quite typical of what I found in the remainder of the dumpster: small wood chips and plant trimmings, a few crumpled pieces of paper, a few strips of tattered muslin, some spoiled berries, and several wads of horse hair. After inspection, I empty the box into the bin and climb onto the buggy with the re-cycle box in tow. I’ll leave it at the front of the center with all the others.
Professor James waits patiently for me to get comfortable, but I can tell from his flinch I’ve brought the dumpster’s aroma with me. I can’t let the moment pass. “What? You don’t like my perfume?”
He chuckles under his breath, moves the horse a small distance from the bin, and stops again, being careful to position me downwind. “Now that you’ve begun dumpster diving 101, what’ve you learned?”
I assume there’s more to this “test” than a passing fancy, more than determining if I can get filthy with the best of them and still come out swinging. “I’ve learned people here still don’t know how to segregate garbage correctly. Hair is an animal byproduct; it shouldn’t be in that bin. There were also a few shards of broken glass, a recycling no-no and a clear indication more recycling education is needed. There were only a few edible organics, indicating most of that material is buried in gardens locally. It’s also pretty clear they don’t wash the dumpsters out after using them to collect animal by-products.”
Professor James looks disappointed. “That’s it, after an entire hour?”
I shrug. “There’s more, but it’s personal.” He nods while rotating his hand toward himself in a “give me more” motion, a clear indication I should continue. “Okay then, from a scrawled note that was probably passed between two teenagers; I think Dianne McCarthy is pregnant. She probably hasn’t told her parents, or Central Population Control, or she would’ve passed that information to her friend electronically instead of on paper.”
Professor James smiles thinly, looking up from the stalled horse directly into my eyes. It gives me goose bumps to be looked at so intently…so personally. “That’s better. Now, if you had to guess, what would you think some future Cultural Anthropologist might glean from that trash?”
Think, Beth, think! A long silence follows. I didn’t expect such a question. The horse waits; Professor James waits. I finally come up with something that seems reasonable. “Ah, probably nothing. None of that trash would last very long. It’ll all be converted to energy or re-used in some way, even the plastics and toxics. A future anthropologist wouldn’t know we existed at all, at least not from that trash.”
“Good Beth, excellent! Now, do you consider our current civilization more advanced or less advanced than the one we replaced?”
Where is he going with this? Why should that matter? I sigh; the question seems inane. “I guess more. The previous civilization might have had more fun, but they choked on the party.”
He smiles broadly, like he really liked my answer. “So a truly advanced civilization might not leave clues to their existence at all, like the one we replaced did, right? And without a remnant of trash, they’d be pretty hard to detect after they vanished into the annals of history!”
My eyebrows dip and I look at him with as much curiosity as I can muster. “I suppose so, unless they left things for future generations to find, either intentionally or accidentally. I’d consider the pyramids an accident, because they weren’t left specifically for future generations, but time capsules full of relics were intentional, because they were.”
He taps the horse’s butt with his long crop and commands, “Giddyup!” The reluctant horse moves forward without the slightest hint of enthusiasm, and Professor James asks, while continuing to stare at the horse, “What was the most significant thing you learned in there?”
It’s good to be moving again. The light breeze seems to strip away the outer layer of stench. “If my interpretation from that single scrap of paper is correct, probably the pregnancy, but that required some inference. Our language isn’t all that clear when people want to disguise their true meaning. I mean, it’s pretty easy to talk around something so completely that the true meaning is lost and only inference remains.”
We stop at the front of the center and I place the old woman’s recycle box on the stack with all the others. “You’re very astute, Beth, but what if you weren’t familiar with our language or didn’t know it at all, what conclusions could you draw about us then?”
Considering I only had an hour in the dumpster, he’s asking some pretty deep questions. “I suppose, because there was so little paper, one might conclude we aren’t a paper-based society. Also, because the paper WAS there, with writing on it, that we are driven to communicate, as a people. That alone might spur me to look further…for something we might have left on purpose, something like a time capsule.”
His eyes twinkle as his smile broadens, “My thinking exactly, Beth! Now let’s get you to the office and cleaned up. When you’ve learned Old Persian more completely than anyone in history, then I’ll show you something beyond your imagination. Something left behind intentionally that’ll blow you away, something that might re-write history as we know it forever.”

Author Bio: Although his Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. are in Chemistry and Meteorology, James worked as a scientist and system/software engineer before retiring a third time, then turned to writing. Extensive travel, from Thule, Greenland to Australia’s Great Barrier reef – and to dozens of countries in between – provide the real-life experiences he incorporates into everything he writes.

James enjoys boating, kayaking, skiing, traveling, hiking, tending nine grandchildren (no more than two at a time), and ballroom dancing, but his first love is writing, and all other activities are molded around it. He has completed six novels and one short story, and intends to continue writing in the Sci-Fi and Paranormal Comedy genres. He will soon have five titles with http://xoxopublishing.com

Thank you, Sherry, for allowing me to bring this blog to your site, and a big thank you to all you readers who slogged your way to the end. Please feel free to comment on this blog, or write to me at: jhatch6@hot.rr.com.

James L. Hatch



x said...

Mr. James,
As a known agitator, instigator (the worst sort of tator and gator, I am told) and general trouble maker, I would love to disagree with your Adam/Eve/Genesis scenerio, but I cannot. I'm right there with you. I promise I won't report you to the fundamentalism police, but it would be an intriguing conversation.


James L. Hatch said...

Hi "x". You're too funny. I've been looking over my shoulder since I published this one. So far, no fundamentalist police. Thanks for keeping mum.