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Showing posts from December, 2017

The Creatures in the Volcano (Monsterbus p.54)

This is a beautiful and moving story when taken seriously. The start is exhilarating, the end is thought provoking. It's about an existential threat that nobody will believe because it seems so crazy.

I think this is another prophecy come true. It applies to the central theme of both the Eternals and of the monster comics: higher beings deciding our future.  For example, I recently blogged about how the human race has until the year 2026 to find a way to survive the coming of the gods. Like aliens in volcanoes, it sounds crazy. But if it is true, what can we do?

In my view we can survive the gods by becoming much stronger. And we can only do that by creating a fairer society (so every human's potential can be used). See my other site, answersanswers.com, for details. But I can't say "make a fairer society because the gdsa re coming". Like the story of aliens in volcanoes, nobody would believe me. So like the man in the story, I have to appeal to the profit motive…

Invasion From Outer Space (Monsterbus p.49)

Score another for Kirby the prophet. In the story, a man creates unbeatable space ships and this ends the cold war: the two sides cannot win with bombs, so they have to choose peace. The spaceships were really an illusion, but it worked.

 This prophecy came true, thirty years later.

Ronald Reagan poured huge sums of money into "Star Wars" space technology. But the idea was fantasy: even if by some technological miracle you could stop half of all incoming missiles, the other half would destroy you anyway. Yet the fantasy worked: Russia believed that America was creating unbeatable space weapons, weapons the Russians could never afford, so the cold war had to end.

(Yes, I know this is a simplification, but I believe it is a good one. Russia realised that its economy could not continue. Their inability to compete with the Strategic Defence Initiative was simply the most visible sign of the underlying problem.).

Prison 2000 AD (Monsterbus p.44)

Kirby the prophet hits it out of the park again. This is happening now: a machine is making us less violent through rewiring our brains, and we don't realise it.

Stephen Pinker's "Better Angels of our Nature" records how human violence is reducing. This is easily attributed to living in a more networked world: networks work better when the nodes don't kill each other. I have argued elsewhere that it is best to think of these networks as being living machines. They are making us less violent because it suits them to do so. This machine is changing our thoughts and we don't realise it is doing it.

The Invisible Man (Monsterbus p.37)

Actions have consequences. I like that about Kirby's work. He thinks like an engineer. Yes, we could have this cool thing, but the cost of doing it is too high. For example, you could live with half the sleep that you do, and think of all that extra time you'd have! But you'd feel terrible and die young.

Likewise, you could take performance enhancing drugs for all your life. But those drugs work precisely because they mimic existing body chemicals.  If the body could simply produce more of those chemicals for better results without some nasty cost, competitive evolutionary pressures mean it would already be doing so.

In most fantasy or science fiction stories we have great powers and no real cost. But Kirby knows that reality doesn't work that way.

Secret of the flying saucers (Monsterbus p21)

This follows logically from the previous story: space is so unsuitable for biological life that mechanical life is better suited. (This of course relates to previous posts about humans no longer being top species)

This is prophetic: NASA knows that unmanned space exploration is vastly more efficient than the manned kind. But as in Kirby's story, the public does not like the idea of unmanned space travel.

Afraid to Dream (Monsterbus p16)

The star Antares is very big. The implications are explored in this story (high gravity, high temperatures, hence extreme weather, extreme everything). This is the sign of a great thinker: the ability to think through consequences and how it would really be.

Why does Antares matter to us? Because if we consider more human space travel we have to be realistic: what will happen and is it worth it? Also, note that advanced civilisations live underground.

Happy Christmas; Monsterbus time

Eternals 10 is a good time to break and look back at earlier, lighter Kirby classics. I just got the Kirby Monster collection for Christmas, and when I read a Kirby book I blog about it!

All of Kirby's work forms a single whole. People see his 1970s stuff and think he was all about dense, heavy topics. Not true! In the 1950s he was about fun! Let's enjoy his simpler, more accessible period for a change of pace.

The decalogue and the ten books of the Eternals

Kirby dealt with such eternal themes that it is easy to see parallels with other timeless classics. For example, every book deals with dramatic architecture, both ancient and modern, so we could match the ten books of the Eternals (climaxing in the destruction of Lemuria) with the ten books of architecture that formed the template for the Roman empire:

Book 1: Town planning
Book 2: Building materials
Book 3: temples
Book 4: temples, continued
Book 5: civil buildings
Book 6: domestic buildings
Book 7: pavements and decoration
Book 8: Aqueducts
Book 9: Science
Book 10: Machines

Compare these with the first ten books of the Eternals

Book 1: The gods were planning
Book 2: the history of Earth, and the rocks crumble
Book 3: New York skyscrapers: temples of the humans
Book 4: New York skyscrapers, continued
Book 5: the true rulers of Earth
Book 6: city college and ordinary people
Book 7: we are beneath the gods' feet
Book 8: the sea
Book 9: our killing machines
Book 10: the superior mac…

Eternals 10: how our world will end

The Eternals, as the title suggests, is about the biggest principles that never change. This is the heart of apocalyptic prophecy: these are eternal patterns repeated forever. And here we see the hand of God judging an evil society. And we see the choices: they could have had Thena, but he was not good enough. And the outcasts who innocently sinned are saved to start again.

At first glance this book's (Eternals 10) is just a chapter in an ongoing story. And in a way it is: all history is ongoing. But Eternals 10 is possibly Kirby's biggest and most final story because it deals with the end of the human race, through analogy with our Deviant cousins. Deviant society is both older and more advanced, and here it ends. It feels like just one more battle, but look closer. This is the judgement of the fourth host: this is the end.

Some Deviants will survive of course. They may think they are still a mighty people. But from this point they are powerless. Kirby is being prophetic: our…

Eternals 9: hate destroys us

The Deviants' great hope was trained to kill. He became so good at it that he couldn't stop. He could have been one of the gods, but instead was a monster. That is probably what will become of mankind. Look at politics, look at social media: we think in terms of enemies. No matter what our problem our first priority is always to hate. So we never find lasting economic and social solutions, and soon it will be too late.

Eternals 8: immigration and Kirby at his best

(Yes, OK, Kirby is always at his best)

Seeing the ruins of Lemuria gave me such a thrill. The lost undersea civilisation is a common theme in Kirby (see the Boy Commandos, Fantastic Four issue 4, Kala, Attilan, etc.). The names might change, but those are unimportant. Kirby's books are really about the common man and the real world: it's all the same story. As a child I longed for the original Fantastic Four to continue, and here it is.

Eternals 8 is a summary of all Kirby's work. It features our prehistoric past, our possible future among the gods, romance, superheroes and monsters (three of Kirby's best known themes) and much more.

However, this blog is about Kirby as a prophet, and this book does not disappoint. The story is about people sent to die because they don't look like us, and about the Deviants' desire for racial purity. And the Deviants hate talking about it to outsiders, they won't face up to it. We do the same today.

Today I watched a video …

Eternals 7: Fermi's paradox resolved

With so many planets in our galaxy, why haven't we seen aliens? Eternals 7 has the answer.

First, we do not recognise other intelligent life. In the Eternals, humans don't realise that mythical figures were real. Kirby was right. That is true for us as well. I have argued elsewhere that consciousness is information, and God is logic so is therefore real. But even believers don't recognise him. I have further argued that corporations are conscious. Again, we don't see what is in front of us.

Second, in every other case in the galaxy, Kirby argues that human-like civilisations do not survive the creation of technology. A sobering thought, as Kirby tends to be correct in his predictions. (In Kamandi and other books we see a post nuclear future where man is no longer master.)

Never buy an Amazon Fire tablet

This is my third attempt to write this review on my Amazon Fire. Each time, the horrible browser (that you are forced to use) highlights words to "add to dictionary". If you accidentally touch one the page will refresh, losing all your work.

I could write a long list of bugs like that. But I will not waste my time as the post is likely to be lost before I hit "publish". I bought the tablet because it seemed cheap for the hardware spec. I now know why.

Eternals 6: eternal standards

Eternals 6 is about standards of behaviour. The Eternals seek out academics. They are patient with youth. Even Kro is a man of his word and generous wherever possible. Such behaviour is not a luxury, something to be abandoned in times of war. It is what warriors learn the hard way: it gets better results in the long run. Civilisations develop manners, not because they are soft, but because it is the only way to survive when everyone is deadly.

 The young deviants didn't understand manners. Kro had been around a long time. He understood.

Eternals 5: the enemy is us

The Deviants aim to destroy us by making us fear then fight the gods. This is happening now.

Take the Bible for example. This is one area where today men fight gods. Most people reject the law of Moses (that is, the philosophy of Moses, that is, the god of Moses) as being primitive. Because we look on the supernatural view of the text. But if we understood the text (that is, if we rejected supernatural explanations) it would solve all our problems. Because the law of Moses is about land, and the rest is mere footnotes and negotiable. I write about this elsewhere. By fighting a real god we merely hurt ourselves, as Kirby showed.

Incidentally, note the dome in the Andes on the final page. Recognise it? Maximums had a similar plan in Fantastic Four 48: Get the Humans to act like humans in front of a celestial, and thus destroy themselves, while the wiser people are safe in their dome.  Stan Lee's editing removed the link between Maximus and Galactus, destroying the story. So in the E…

Eternals 4: demon haunted world

Demons are created by the deviants: those who love chaos in order to profit from war. This is still true today. We demonize enemies.

But the Eternals - the scientists and historians - know that demons do not exist: our enemies are subject to the same evolutionary pressures and physical needs needs as us.

Eternals 3: the year 2026

Eternals was written in 1976. It says mankind's fate will be decided in fifty years: that is, in the year 2026. This is happening now. Kirby's prophecy is coming true.

Kirby said he intended the Eternals to be about our ancient origins, especially in a Biblical sense (hence the reference to the great flood). The Bible is all about gods, and Bible prophecy is all about monstrous beasts (see Daniel and Revelation in particular). Gods and monsters dominate Kirby's books.

In the Bible, gods represent ultimate causes and monstrous beasts represent nations and empires. That is, they are both metaphors for the systems and networks that we can influence yet barely understand. Humans have always been slaves to forces they barely understand - even kings and emperors are slaves to larger forces. But between 1976 and 2026 something changed. Information technology took over the world.

I have written elsewhere about how nations and corporations are a separate species that evolves for it…

Eternals 2: ancient wisdom

Kirby describes in poetic form how the gods formed man from the animals. Noah Harari also described the process: the discovery of metaphorical beings allowed our species of ape to break free of our hard wired limit of troops of just fifty or so. Now our troops could number thousands, the millions, and civilisation was possible.

There are three kinds of man: the abstract thinker (the eternal), the never satisfied fighter (the deviant) and the worker (regular people). The great abstract thinkers gave us eternal principles: thousands of years ago Pythagoras gave us mathematics, Moses gave us ground rent, and Plato explained how the real world is the world of abstractions. These are the true Eternals.

In book 2 of the Eternals, Kirby reminds us that greater powers crush lesser powers. The deviants crushed the humans, and the gods crushed the deviants. He shows us that the wise choices is learn if them and welcome them as the Eternals do. The suicidal choice is to fight them as the deviant…

Eternals 1: space gods are real

Kirby explains the gods this way: "outer space technology translated in terms of mythology." That is, take something we cannot understand and explain it in terms that we can.

Yes, I am still going on about gods as metaphor. I want to make this crystal clear. Kirby was talking about metaphors. If you are not comfortable with metaphors then you will not like the Eternals.
Aztec gods were real The central image, the Aztec astronaut, is of course based on the famous stone sarcophagus lid, sometimes called the Palenque astronaut:


This was the lid of the coffin of king K'inich Janaab' Pakal. He was dressed as the maize god and his pose looked forward to being reborn as a child. The symbols at the edge of the coffin represent stars and planets.

Let's talk about the maize god. Maize was real. Respect for maize was literally a matter of life and death. The maize god was a metaphor for those values: a language, a way to communicate complex ideas in memorable ways. There is…

The Eternals: what are gods?

Gods are the central theme of Kirby's career. Tuk sought them, the Challengers challenged them, the Fantastic Four met them, Don Blake became one, and Kirby's magnum opus was the New Gods. But The Eternals is where the space gods come to Earth.

What is a god? Our answer must be based on reason, or what is the point in discussing anything? So we can ignore Faith based answers, regardless of how many people hold them.

I think Noah Harari's book "Sapiens" says it best. Gods are metaphors, and their discovery is what allowed humans to conquer the world. I discuss Bible gods in more detail here.

Gods are how we unite people. Since the 1990s and the ubiquitous Internet, we are suddenly able to unite as never before. We do so via new corporations and new networks. These corporations and networks are examples of Harari's gods. Cyber corporations and networks (based in abstract space, not a particular nation or city) would thus be space gods.

For a couple of thousand …

OMAC: closing thoughts

Kirby never got to finish OMAC. In the middle of the story there's a tiny frame where everything explodes, and that's it! Over! But that isn't fooling anyone. The story did not, and could not, end.

Being forever unfinished was the perfect ending. It ends with man and machine fighting to the death. The planet versus the machines, with the first casualty the sea. And that is what we we are now.

It is 2017 and computers are becoming smarter than humans. Not in the same way as us if course. Human AI is not the problem. Maybe machines will always need some humans. But do those humans need you and me? Or are they like Skuba, extracting whatever they can for their own benefit? The first casualty of mindless greed will be rising sea levels. Kirby was right, look to the sea.

We are in a war for life itself and we don't know the outcome. So the final OMAC book does not end, it leaves us in the middle of the battle.

Because that is the whole point of the future. It isn't fixe…

OMAC 8: identity and atoms

In a fitting climax to this superb series, Kirby deals with identity.

The idea of shared identity (we are nothing without others) and changing identify are throughout. But here we have a favourite Kirby observation: the person who changes and has no memory of his previous form. (See: the Hulk) Because our thoughts depend on our form. An ant does not think like a tiger, how could he?

Kirby also presents us with the question, who is the real Buddy Blank (such a perfect name!) And it is a trick question: because life is change.

No change, no life.

But this blog isn't about philosophy, let's talk atoms. How does Skuba "thin out" atoms to pass through others (itself a metaphor for identity)? Superficially we might think of vibration or quantum tunnelling or Moses Chan and his supersolids. But none of that stuff works when you look closer, not in any physics we are likely to see. However, Kirby already gave us the answer: think of identity. What is it? How can Brother Eye …