Donald Trump officially directed the Pentagon to establish a brand spanking new branch of the U.S. military. Speaking at a National Space Council meeting [there’s a National Space Council? Seriously?] at the White House yesterday, Trump called for a “space force” to ensure American dominance on the high frontier.
“I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security,” Trump said.
I have it on good word that the leading candidates for the Secretary of the Space Force include J.J. Abrams, George Lucas, Ron Howard, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg.
Can you imagine how amazing the CGI graphics will be?
I don’t know how many copies I have owned of this book. Or how many times I’ve read it. I know it has been often. I first read it when I was a teenager and I’ve been rereading it regularly ever since. I used to give away copies to people who hadn’t read it yet and eventually, kept extra copies, just in case. Which meant that I had to read it again. So I bought another copy.
A couple of years ago, I bought the audiobook which has a great introduction by Connie Willis. Since I can’t give that one away, I still have a few paperbacks waiting for whoever becomes the next person I meet who hasn’t read it. Yet. Or who need to read it again 😀
After this reblog, you’ll find my review of the book. It’s probably my fifth review since I started this blog. Periodically, I really need to reread this book. I’m addicted.
The story isn’t exactly antediluvian — but then again, perhaps it is. In its own way.
According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts. Since Earth Abides is closing in on the 70th anniversary of publication, George R. Stewart’s epic work is approaching platinum.
The novel was published on October 7, 1949. It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate. One later reviewer went so far as to call it “a second work of Genesis.” With its title from Ecclesiastes and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is almost biblical in its feeling. Never dull, however.
Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work. But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.” The language was one thing. Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book. He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more modern English. He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.
The book has had enormous influence. Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,” Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” from the novel (his favorite book). Other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works. It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask. There is some talk of producing a film version of the novel.
It was also the first winner of the “fantasy novel” award. It generated a whole genre of post-apocalyptic writing and another entire generation of disaster books — and sadly, movies. Connie Willis, who reads the introduction says it hugely influenced her work on many levels.
The novel has never been out of print –no thanks to its original publisher. Random House decided to pull the novel in the early 1970s. Fortunately, Stewart and small fine press publisher Alan Ligda quickly got together and brought out a beautiful copy from Ligda’s Hermes Press.
The Hermes edition sold well. Random House quickly realized they’d made a mistake and bought the rights back.
Thanks to Alan Ligda, Earth Abides has been in print for seventy years come next October. He is a Hero of the novel. Sadly, he died young, and won’t be able to help celebrate the book’s Platinum Anniversary. So please take a minute (or more) to say a silent thanks to Alan Ligda while you celebrate the novel.
And read the novel again. (You’ll have to do a number of readings to catch up with Steve Williams, the Pilgrim, who doesn’t know how many dozens of times he’s read it.) As you read, reflect on Stewart’s role in raising our consciousness of the ecosystem.
His wildly popular ecological novels, Storm, Fire, and Earth Abides, and his less-widely read “post-modernist” ecological novel, Sheep Rock, have shaped our thinking. Like most great creative works of thought, they have more power than all the armies in existence. That pen (or, in Stewart’s case, pencil) is mightier than the sword. By the way – if you want to buy a signed first edition, Morley’s Books in Carson City just happens to have one. It comes with a custom box to protect the classic. Only $1600 – about half the price of another on offer at ABE.
When I first read Earth Abides by George R. Stewart more than 50 years ago, it wasn’t newly published, but it was new to me.
Unlike many other books I have read and forgotten, Earth Abides has stuck with me. I’ve returned to it many times in recent years, but there was a period when I couldn’t find a copy of the book anywhere. Nonetheless, I could recall it with remarkable clarity. This is especially remarkable considering the thousands of books I read every year. That I could remember this one book — not to be too punny — spoke volumes. It turns out that I was not alone. Many people found the book unforgettable, including many writers. George Stewart’s masterpiece became the jumping off point for an entire genre.
Earth Abides is a “foundation book,” one of a handful of books that you must read if you are a science fiction fan. It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. A foundation book it most definitely is, but classing it as the “original disaster story” rather misses the point.
Earth Abides isn’t merely a disaster story or post-apocalyptic science fiction. Above all, it is a book of rebuilding, renewal, and hope. The event that initiates the story is a disaster, a plague resulting from either a natural mutation or something escaped from a lab that runs amok. Whatever its origins, it kills off most of Earth’s human population. As has been true of plagues throughout history, a small percentage of the population is naturally immune. Additionally, anyone who survived a rattlesnake bite is immune.
Earth Abides was the first recipient of the medal for Fantasy Novel.
You might think the technology in the story is going to be old and silly. Except, everything fails almost immediately when people are gone. It doesn’t matter what you used to have — except electricity.
It turns out, whatever super high tech stuff you have in your tech-pile of devices if you don’t have power, you have nothing. It’s just rubble.
The plague is the back story. The front story of Earth Abides is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and create a new civilization. Through marriage and the pressures of survival, groups become tribes. Simultaneously, the earth itself revives and finds balance.
The animals return. Old animals and new animals. Dogs and cats remain and the only absolutely lost creature turns out to be the human louse. Not too many people went to the funeral of those three species.
Most diseases of the old earth are eliminated by depopulation. New generations are healthy. Along with physical disease, mental illness, archaic religion, outdated social structures and cultural norms are discarded or merely slip away. New human generations have no memory of institutionalized bias and prejudice. The color line becomes extinct.
There is much that needs doing in this brand new world, but there’s an infinite amount of future in which to do it.
The earth will be repopulated. Gently and peacefully. The reborn world will contain bits and pieces of what went before but lacks its former demons.
The book was re-released as a 60th-anniversary edition in 2009, including an audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis. It’s now 2018 (going on 2019) — making it just about 70 years and the book is still not merely relevant, but hopeful. By my standards, optimistic.
The last time I read it was just following its re-release. Now, I’m reading it again. Even after all these years, it kept me up until dawn. I haven’t read the night away in several years and it wasn’t intentional. I couldn’t let the story go.
Eight years has given me time to be surprised by the book again. Surprised by how much Ish — the main character — changes over the years. How enormously his belief structure adapts to new realities. How much of the detritus of the previous world he eventually allows to disappear. How open his mind becomes.
It’s a rare transformation from a literary point of view. Few characters I’ve read have transformed as much as Ish does in Earth Abides.
Earth Abides was published in 1949. In some parts of the U.S. and other countries, the issues with which the book’s characters grapple are still very much alive. They shouldn’t be. We have moved on but not enough and right now, we are going backward faster than we ever moved forward.
The technology stands up surprisingly well because it’s essentially irrelevant. All technology disappears, so it doesn’t matter how advanced it used to be. When the power goes off, it’s over. The world goes back to pre-technological. It has wind, water and sun. Books remain, so knowledge exists, but in stasis, waiting to be rediscovered and deployed. Meanwhile, earth abides.
The world ends, a reborn world begins. Earth Abides is timeless. As is the Earth. There’s an entire site dedicated to George R. Stewart —The EARTH ABIDES Project. Please check it out!
It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback. There was time when it was difficult to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries. I’m glad. It remains among my top five all time favorite science fiction novels and if you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present.
I have a spare copy, just in case.
Notes on language (Hebrew) and its use:
Many people (including Connie Willis) think the name “Ish” is related to some ancient native American with a similar name or some mythical creature from some legend. However, if you read the original commentary from the Stewart home blog, you’ll realize as Stewart was writing this book, he was studying Hebrew. He wanted to retranslate the bible. Yes, he WAS an academic — the best kind.
His two primary founders were a man and a woman, called “ISH” — in Hebrew pronounced “eesh,” meaning manand “EMMA.” in Hebrew pronounced “eema.” It means mother.
Ish and Emma are the founding parents of the world to come. Their names are not an obscure reference to other books or myths. They are standard Hebrew and anyone who speaks the language — even a little bit — will get it.
Posted on A malicious ghost is creeping again over the streets of Europe, it is the spirit of simplified truths and self-proclaimed saviors of occident as a whole. The nationalist ideologies of the 19th and 20th century are on the verge of a disgusting revival in many countries.
Those responsible politicians – harmlessly named as populists – have initiated a postmodern witch-hunt, the victims of this unproclaimed war today comprise refugees, foreigners or people of different belief and way to live. The globalization of this retrogressive zeitgeist has opened new battlefields where peace should be.
These ruthless ideologists want to put the clock back, what implies the risk of warming up old already forgotten conflicts. Like unscrupulous pupils in magic, the radical nationalists have lighted blazing fires and stakes everywhere in Europe and elsewhere which need to be urgently extinguished again.
The kids in the orphanage in Nicaragua where we adopted three children didn’t cry. They’d already done their crying someplace else.
They might have looked concerned but they didn’t cry when passed from one person to the next like a bowl of mashed potatoes being passed at Thanksgiving dinner. In their tiny heads they had figured out the futility of complaint. There was no use crying, it wouldn’t change anything.
They had already lost everything.
Children cope with abandonment. They will appear to cope at least. And how they appear to cope is that they don’t cry. It won’t be long before the little children who have been separated from their parents by American immigration officials, who feel the same as if their parents had abandoned them on the side of the road, it won’t be long before they stop crying. Because crying won’t change anything.
This is a guest post by writer and blogger Emily Watts. Emily is the author of multiple articles concerning mysterious and intriguing historical facts and theories. However, she also writes about problems of education, business, modern technology, personal relationships, and other topics.
History of the Great Library of Alexandria
World history is full of terrible losses. No, I’m not talking about people who fell in numerous wars and battles. This post is devoted to another sort of loss: a cultural one. Unfortunately, humanity has lost too many antiquities, and cultural heritage can be irreplaceable. One such tragedy is the burning of the library of Alexandria.
The great library of Alexandria is one of the most discussed historical buildings. The main reason why there are so many theories and debates concerning it is lack of evidence. We know very little about its history and the way it came to ruin and, as a result, you’d be surprised as to how many students leave us online requests with, “I need help writing my research paper on the ancient library of Alexandria.”
So, how does one define the truth and separate it from legend?
Let’s start with what made it so great: from what ancient sources tell us, no other library could match its majesty and importance. It contained numerous irreplaceable books. It was all destroyed by a fire which obliterated these precious writings and devoured the whole structure. Today, there are no ruins left; not a single brick. Only stories, theories, and myths remain.
Concerning its founding
From these stories, we can determine that the Alexandria library was founded in Egypt around 330 BC. However, this date is only an approximation, as no one can name the exact date of library’s foundation. We only know it was founded after Alexander the Great was assassinated in 323 BC.
A similar fog surrounds its founder. It is believed that Ptolemy Lagides was its founder. He was one of Alexander’s successors. The library was named in honor and tribute to the great emperor, warrior, and cultural leader, Alexander, who adored the arts, history, and science.
Pretty soon, the library became a keeping place for all rare writings. According to one theory, one of Aristotle’s students named Demetrius initiated the organization of this marvelous endeavor. According to another, Ptolemy’s son was the one who stood behind its creation.
Whom to Blame?
So, what happened? How was it all destroyed?
What is really known is that the library was burned down and its contents lost forever. The first person who was accused of this terrible crime was one of the most famous persons in the world history – Julius Caesar. In 48 BC he pursued Pompey who ran to Egypt. An Egyptian fleet intercepted Caesar, and he was forced to use fire to fight back. This happened near the shores of Alexandria. It is said that the Library was in the part of the city that got burned down.
Another theory implicates Theophilus, then Patriarch of Alexandria, and his great success in converting people to Christianity. This found a strong opposition amongst the city’s pagan followers, who rioted after Theophilus’ death. His successor, Cyril, wasn’t able to hold back the riots and quite soon the fires were all around the city, finally reaching the Library. Some accused Hypatia, one of the world’s first women philosophers, for the destruction, leading to her death.
A third theory accuses the Moslem Caliph, Omar. The Caliph said that the habitats of the city ought to honor the Koran. As the Library contained great numbers of manuscripts which belonged to other religions, religious intolerance induced the burning. In Omar’s alleged words, anything contained in the Library was either in accordance to the Koran, therefore obsolete, or against it, in which case it was heretical. Either way, there was no reason for its existence.
Just like everything else surrounding the Library, these are the main theories surrounding the Library’s destruction. However, there are multiple factors which contradict one another. Sadly enough for a place of learning, it is unlikely we will ever uncover the full truth behind the legend of the Great Library of Alexandria.
Interesting in a lot of ways, especially that it was (ironically?) Disney with whom Stewart worked. I remember the television shows very well, especially the movie about the fire which was based on Stewart’s book.
You might think scholarship is boring. Dull as dirt. Best reserved for those in the monastery or the ivory tower.
You’d be wrong.
Scholarship is an adventure, a treasure-hunt. And the quest brings surprising and unexpected discoveries – which usually lead to new treasure. Researching the George R. Stewart biography, for example, I discovered that famous writers like Stephen King and Wallace Stegner and William Least Heat Moon, musician and composer Philip Aaberg, scientist Dr. James D. Burke of JPL, and Jimi Hendrix were influenced by Stewart’s works.
Walt Disney was also a great fan of Stewart. He even hired Stewart to work at the studio as a consultant. Stewart discussed ideas with various studio personnel; then submitted a report about the potential for American folklore films and educational films. Stewart’s recommendations went to Ben Sharpsteen, legendary Disney producer and director.
Smallpox is the first and only human disease that was declared eradicated on a global scale. Also, with the breakthroughs made while eradicating smallpox and a number of other creative solutions, we are now really close to making a few more diseases a thing of the past.
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