Preview of my Upcoming Novel

The first draft began around Christmas 2018, but the idea is much older. It came to me in Calhoun, Georgia around the age of seven or eight. It must have been informed by my mom telling me that the land we lived upon had once belonged to the Cherokee natives. We were, after all, only five minutes’ drive from where the Trail of Tears began. I remember ranking Andrew Jackson as my least-favorite president after I learned the back-stabbing role be played in the Cherokee removal. And I also vaguely recall being awed by Sequoyah–whom the sequoia redwoods were probably named after–an illiterate who made a written language from scratch to preserve what was left of his people’s culture.

The idea, quite simply, was of a sickly medicine man teaching his apprentice everything he knows before he dies. Eventually, a secondary layer was added: how might a powerful medicine man have tried to prevent the Trail of Tears if he had foreknowledge of it?

After a decade and a half of letting this concept simmer in the subconscious, my two main characters eventually let themselves in and began telling me their story. It seems that theirs is a sort of American Divine Comedy or Cherokee 300–romanticizing yet simultaneously reappraising the mythos of the United States in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Understanding them has so-far required two feet-worth of reference books. Cherokee culture is singular and thus challenging to learn; the lingering presence of any inapplicable “Cowboys and Indians” tropes (teepees, horses) is disastrous, especially when the story’s main setting predates Columbus and De Soto. My general ignorance of forestry/ecology has also had to be addressed. The goal, of course, is to notice all that they would have noticed.

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Without such details–simply jotting down the 5 W’s of the plot–their story is novella-length at roughly 15K words. But I will not be content until it’s a seething mass of fever-dream-like attention to detail at least in the neighborhood of novel-length. As far as timing, I am intentionally maintaining a slow-and-steady pace, because if I have one complaint with my previous self-publications, it’s that I was in too much of a hurry and it occasionally shows. Because this one will be pitched to literary agents or at least small third-party publishers, I am taking my sweet time and will continue redrafting until I’ve read something that could at least shiver in the shadow of American Greats like Jack London or John Steinbeck.

That being said, my best guess is that I will finish in 2020, which puts publication into 2021 or 2022. Now that I am well into the third draft, I not only hope but expect that it will be worth the wait.

-CLW

Musings Upon the Mandela Effect

lion & lamb

Lion & Lamb: a photo I took outside of Sight & Sound Theater in Branson, MO.

The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon where one’s memory of the past does not correspond to the evidence one can produce of that past. Most examples are inconsequential, like whether James Earl Jones while voicing Darth Vader famously uttered:

“Luke, I am your father.”

or

“No, I am your father.”

(Apparently it was the latter, though many fans, and the actor himself, recall the former).

Other examples, however, involve historical and even religious truths. The Effect itself is named after the mass belief that Nelson Mandela died in the 1980s, although his current death-year is given as 2013. And many a Christian has been disturbed by the realization that their collective recollection of Isaiah 11:6, which opens with the utopian statement that

“The lion shall lay down with the lamb…”

actually reads

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb…”

This replacement of the remembered lion with the apparent wolf is potentially upsetting because, in Judeochristian symbolism, the lion is often equated with God, while wolves are only ever equated with the Devil. To a paranoid eye–perhaps such as mine–it looks like someone decided to engage in a little nefarious editing to reference Aesop’s fable “The Wolf and the Lamb” while simultaneously giving the Lion of Judah/Aslan connotation the boot.

These are but a few examples of a veritable avalanche of surreal and even downright disturbing incongruities between recollection and reality that the internet has compiled since around 2012 (oh yes, we can’t get this weird without the Mayan calendar being involved).

Most explanations of the phenomenon appear to be either secular or metaphysical extremes:

  • that human memory is even more fallible than previously believed, or
  • that science/tech like CERN has opened portals to alternate dimensions, merged timelines, etc.

Briefly entertaining the thought that every KJV Bible in my possession–and perhaps in the world entire–has mysteriously been tampered with, was sufficient evidence that this Effect has the potential to send imaginative people straight to the funny-farm.

Yet, the madness of a thing is not sufficient to disregard it–not in a modern age where quantum computing/artificial intelligence wizards like Geordie Rose must turn to H.P. Lovecraft’s horrifying Great Old Ones as the only sufficient metaphor for what their creations will be like in relation to human beings.

So, for now at least, I want to propose a moderate theory which bridges the Effect’s extreme explanations.

  • Because we humans, for the first time in our existence, cannot in anywise foresee or guess at our own future (it is as though the future merely reads “Here There Be Monsters,” like old ignorant maps), perhaps we are suddenly forced to look back at a hazy past. What do I mean by “hazy past?” We have in effect severed all of our ancestral ties. Few humans in the developed world know much about their family beyond their grandparents or great-grandparents. And perhaps even fewer still believe or think like those unknown ancestors did. The developed world starting with or since the 1990s has been so forward-focused that we have neglected all which came before. Only now that we have accelerated technology to the point that we can no longer chart its trajectory are we rebuffed, and forced to look over our shoulders into the proverbial “haze” for some point of reference. But that which is neglected rarely welcomes the negligent. We find “the good old days weren’t always good” (as Billy Joel puts it in his song Keeping the Faith). And, especially for those who are recollecting something from childhood, we find the subjective sheen and grandeur of innocence is shed, replaced by adulthood’s cynical appraisal. Thus, those who seek a firm foundation in nostalgia find only shifting sand. Perhaps only now do we fully understand why the ancients were so all-fired adamant that one should keep in close contact with their tribal history and myth.

This of course does not placate those who are dead-set that the fabric of reality is already coming unwound pre-Singularity (see Ray Kurtzweil’s books and interviews for more on that idea). I am even willing to concede that it might be. But, I believe my explanation at least serves as a useful caveat. If the past is decaying, it is due to our overemphasis of the future; and the sole way to combat it is by genuine, rather than merely reactionary, reconciliation with that past.

For example: if Jesus’s quotations are (or will be) corrupted and lost, then one had better be sure they have Him in their hearts, rather than depending upon an “infallible” text to preserve His reality for them. True, he did say “my Word will never pass away…” But He Himself is that Logos or Word…

I would also recommend to anyone who can remain entirely unaffected by this Effect (and similar phenomenon in the coming years) to be patient with those who cannot. Even if the Effect is utter tripe–an internet conspiracy conflagration based on memory’s fallibility–the environment in which such Effects are possible is unquestionably trying to introverted personality types. It is relayed by some zookeepers that apes in captivity display hair loss, impotence, and sometimes even insanity. From a purely cold and clinical perspective, this Mandela Effect could be a human comparable to “captivity” in a post-tribe, post-scarcity, post-history environment.

I.E. this is but the tip of an iceberg that our Titanic has already struck. When “deepfakes” fully arrive, all bets will be off in regards to the validity of visual media. The Mandela Effect is but a largely analog precursor to this digital crisis, wherein the average person will not be able to discern a screen or hologram’s fact from fiction. Even if we have begun by distrusting arguably trustworthy forms of media, the principle of general distrust towards media may prove invaluable in an all-too-near future.

The choice is coming sooner than expected:

  • to continue consuming content one knows, deep down, is false and/or harmful, or
  • to endure the silence of no content at all, and discover what awaits there.

I’m pleased to say that my upcoming booklet treats of this general subject matter almost exclusively, although (synchronicity?) I wrote it before learning of the Mandela Effect. I expect it will be out in June or July of this year, as a free PDF here and physically on Amazon for circa $5.00. Now, I guess we just have to hope that what I wrote there continues to be what appears upon the page…