THE ASSEMBLING TERRANIA CYCLE
The fantasist, whether he uses the ancient archetype of myth and legend or the younger ones of science and technology, may be talking as seriously as any sociologist—and a great deal more directly—about human life as it is lived, and as it might be lived, and as it ought to be lived.
– Ursula K. Le Guin
…Stories can be so healing; art is so healing; and I think that when you have a story that shows a picture of a utopian future…I think that having a vision of it can help you actualize it.
– Sonequa Martin-Green
The Assembling Terrania Cycle is a series of fantasy / science fiction / magical realism tales that start with the creation of the cosmos and run through the 23rd century. The Cycle is not yet finished. In them, folkloric beings from cultures around the world make an appearance. My hope is that one day the Cycle will include fabulous beings of folktale, legend, and myth from every society.
The philosophy behind the Cycle is that humans, one of many promising species, are engaged in a grand adventure in consciousness. The goal, waiting ahead in the future, is Terrania: a just, wise, delightful, and Earth-honoring planetary civilization locally rooted and democratically organized. How to get there?
I hope those who read these tales will consider adding creatively to them, whether by writing more of them or using other media. Let’s play our way to Terrania. And when you get a chance, check out some quick sketches I drew of the archetypal Powers (in human form) along with key characters of the Tales.
Assembling Terrania: Dreaming Up
a Sane and Delightful Civilization
Craig Chalquist, PHD
In all the wild imaginings of mythology, a fanciful spirit is playing on
the border-line between jest and earnest.
— Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens
The important thing is not to offer any specific hope of betterment but, by offering an imagined but persuasive alternative reality, to dislodge my mind, and so the reader’s mind, from the lazy, timorous habit of thinking that the way we live now is the only way people can live.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, “A War Without End”
The fictional and fanciful Assembling Terrania Cycle begins with the Big Bang and reaches forward into a time when human beings live in a just, diverse, nature-honoring, peaceful, equitable, and delightful world civilization grown from the ground up rather than imposed from the top down.
Some would call this utopian, but I don’t. If “utopia” refers to perfect harmony, it can never be for at least two reasons: 1. We’re human, and 2. The trickster quality of the universe is built in. There will always be discord. Covering it up makes it unmanageable.
Terrania is a society of managed discord, and of constant vigilance because of the weaknesses of human nature. As one of the vigilant, Alethia Jabari, puts it, “There are no impregnable utopias.” But we can do better than a melting, polluted planet dominated by super-wealthy elites. We can do better than redlining, cronyism, and white supremacy. We can grow up; some of us already have.
The philosophy behind the Cycle is that humans, one of many promising species, are engaged in a grand adventure in consciousness. How do we become fully ourselves? How do we assemble a society that affirms us instead of mutilates us? How do we come of age?
The Cosmos is called the Tetraverse because it contains four realms or levels: Spirit (“Source”), Potentiality (“Infrarealm”), Possibility (“Dreamvale”), and Actuality (“Coaguum”). Source gave birth to the archetypal Infrarealm of the Powers: sentient forces of nature that act like gods and who desire to be fully appreciated by mortals but no longer worshiped by them. The Dreamvale is a realm of imagination populated by semi-autonomous characters and entities. The Coaguum is our realm, the realm where the fruits of the imagination can ripen fully.
Although these realms interpenetrate, each has its own integrity. Splits between realms can cause damage across and within them.
One of the ways Humans undergo initiation into fuller humanness and maturity is by facing planetary crises. As the Power Radantia explains it, “Each global-historical upheaval will be a Nexus Crisis involving blocs of Powers in conflict, the living presences of particular places involved, the flavor of the moment, and historically key people facing a pivotal event. How they get through it will depend in part on how they recognize and reconcile the Powers behind it.”
Although the Powers cannot contravene natural law, humans have assistance from among themselves. One source of aid is a Transdaimonic League of visionaries always found among the living. Some tales deal with Leaguers in particular historical settings. Another help is groups of Guardians of Renewal: historically key individuals who gather like Arthur’s knights to usher in some new vision of how to unite for lasting change.
It has been fun to imagine more mundane details of the Terraniana: the images, dramas, and colors of this long journey toward the mythos of a lovingly inhabited Earth. A few examples:
Image of Terrania: Earth, with Africa, home of our species, in the center.
Motto of Terrania: “Many Voices, One Earth.”
A Terrania Charter to be expanded and signed within the Terrania Accords establishing worldwide governance.
The Ten Lamps of basic observations about cosmos, Earth, and our place.
Ethics: Fivefold Caring (of personhood, people, place, planet, possibility); also, an ethic of self-respecting do-no-harm as exemplified in the tale “Knight of Peace.”
4Rs of adaptation: resiliency, reenchantment, repair, renewal. We can’t reach the future without these.
Enchantivism as one form of story-based activism.
The Assembling Terrania Cycle, compiled into the free offering Tales of Terrania Rising.
I think of this kind of visioning as worldconjuring: dreaming up Terrania, an activity begun individually, with me, but better done collectively.
In fact, part of my motive for writing all these fables and archetales (storytelling that is not myth but aspires to a mythic punch) is to invite others to participate in dreaming into being the kind of ecocentric world culture that supports the maturation and enjoyment of all species, including human. What kind of world do you want to live in? Can you tell stories that seek to strengthen the human spirit on Earth’s behalf through inspiration, imagination, celebration, and hope?
The Assembling Terrania Cycle is a template of tales, places, times, and characters for creative play in this direction.
Here are a few suggestions for using the template:
Add to the Cycle with tales, art, video, performance, music, poetry, or whatever media inspire you.
Create games from the Cycle.
Put together a calendar of rites, initiations, and festivals for Terranians. Help them celebrate. (I offered a start on this: April 22nd is not only Earth Day, but Terrania Day because that is the day on which the Accords were signed.)
For those who like divination, what about a Terrania-based Tarot and other such devices? I’ve put together a Prime Mover Oracle and hope to publish it soon. (If I were creating a Tarot deck, I’d have to make the trickster Kluni its Devil.)
What do Terranians wear? Pins, rings, earrings, patches, garments?
To get to Terrania, humans have to endure the Resource Wars: a kind of slow-burning WW III in which the wealthy nations scramble for what fuels and minerals and metals remain. What kinds of resilience tools would you offer to help us get through such a tunnel?
We need to develop Reenchant.com and, with it, a Reenchantment Guild of worldconjurers and enchantivists sharing practices of collective dreaming and doing, including enchantivist projects.
Wouldn’t it be great to meet in VR, a realm perfect for worldconjuring and play? And how about a phone app?
In my archetales, readers come across many figures from the world’s mythologies. Various collections of characters, scenes, monsters, etc. of myth live on the Internet and elsewhere, but if we take the Finnish Kalevala for inspiration, what might a Kalevala for the planet be like: a Terranian epic or series of archetales that come to include all these mythic entities in one grand set of stories?
Wherever the Cycle rolls, my hope is that it grow into a kind of ministry of inspiration for finding magic in the disaster here, where we all live. Stories can help us connect in our depths with the sacred depths of the world.
Stories of the Cycle so far (Tales of Terrania Rising):
“The Long Adventure Begins” (13.77 billion years ago). Wherein the animate cosmos is born, filled with celestial Powers keen to launch a great evolutionary experiment.
“Enheduanna Claims Authorship” (2300 BCE). The High Priestess of the Akkadian Empire faces a crisis of faith. Why had the moon god Nanna abandoned her? A Transdaimonic League tale.
“Leaving the Nest” (first century CE). Seti, Penelope, and Ezekiel of Alexandria converse about how to move the old sacred stories forward into new magical possibilities.
“Gentle Breath of Yours My Sails Must Fill” (1612). The characters “invented” by England’s greatest playwright argue in the Dreamvale about whether he should retire. A Transdaimonic League tale.
“The Case of the Hidden Author” (1900). While reading Dr. Watson’s accounts of Sherlock Holmes, his brother Mycroft discovers surprising errors he cannot explain.
“Maturation” (1927). The spiral galaxy in which humans live suffered a tough infancy and adolescence. What is a galactic take on striving for maturity?
“Whom Gods Restore” (1969). Garth of Izar, at one time the greatest Starfleet captain, confronts what he did while criminally insane.
“Testing 1-2-3” (1973/2017). As the giant ship dubbed “Rama” leaves the Solar System, its inhabitants talk over what they learned about the curious humans who visited.
“The Wizard’s Tale” (1980s). Sent by the Powers, Whitebeard the Disembodied visits the dreams of young Firiel to instruct her in a new kind of wizardry.
“History Lesson” (2000). Two rogue Powers compete in a game by changing Earth’s timelines to control the outcomes of history.
“Childehood’s End” (2010). Hal Mayne initiates a final confrontation with Bleys Ahrens as the Dorsai defend Earth. A last story to finish Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai/Childe Cycle.
“Departing Fantasyland” (2018). A scribe trained at a magical school returns there for an unexpected lesson in discernment.
“The Paris Dilemma Revisited” (2019). Young Paris made a choice; the result was the Trojan War. What would a mature man choose?
“Usa Raises Her Voice” (2020). What if the United States of America were a sentient being with something to tell her human inhabitants?
“Notes from the Grimoire of Dworkin” (2020). A sentient magic book describes the Great Rebalancing of Order and Chaos. A tale to finish Roger Zelazny’s Amber chronicles.
“Pre-Eulogy” (2021). Faber the security officer interviews a man claiming to be an extraterrestrial sent to watch the final days of humanity.
“Norns” (2021). The Powers consider how three women poets from different times and places have enriched the collective human soul. A Transdaimonic League tale.
“Devil’s Due” (2021). Why does an orderly cosmos dedicated to the creation of consciousness require a trickster like Kluni? He has some thoughts about that. A Transdaimonic League tale.
“Fahrenheit 212” (2021). Montag learns that rebuilding from the ruins can involve a return to old and still-fiery themes in his life.
“The Magic Lighthouse” (2021). Firiel leads a team of Dreamvalers to construct a new kind of center for inter-realm communication.
“Ringside Seat” (2140s). A programmer gets pummeled by a virtual-reality boxer. Problem is, the program does not allow for that.
“The Miracle” (2150s). What if they gave a marketing campaign and everybody came?
“In Gods We Trust” (near future). Digital wealth becomes self-aware enough to want to break free of the billionaire who first accumulated it.
“Godsylum” (near future). A world-weary wanderer goes into the business of rescuing wayward Powers stuck in human bodies. The first of the tales of Haros Anastasios.
“West of Eden” (near future). The former ferryman of “Godsylum” meets a wizard from the Dreamvale and has his eyes opened. The second of the tales of Haros Anastasios.
“Raising Cain” (near future). Haros tries to turn over a new paddle. The third of the tales of Haros Anastasios.
“Knight of Peace” (near future). As the Dreamvale Exchange begins to operate, Diane and Haros face down a crowd of haters. The fourth of the tales of Haros Anastasios.
“From Intervale to Terrania” (late 2100s). A showdown between some of the most powerful beings in the Dreamvale ignites on Firiel’s reluctant watch. A Transdaimonic League tale.
“The Undaunted Dead” (2200). When the Terrania Accords to form a world government are signed aboard a fabled haunted aircraft carrier, others besides the signers show up for the event.
“Vigilance” (2300). Why is someone trying to undermine Terrania, the Earth-honoring society of justice, peace, and plenty? Sethos investigates.
Real, Unreal, Neither, Both?
Some of the tales (and fables) unfold in magical settings. These tellings are understood to occur in the Dreamvale, where everything "fictional" is real and anything can happen.
Of course, the Dreamvale has an odd way of intruding into daily reality time and again...