Starting today, and over the next two months, I shall be blogging “The Retrodictions of Sumadastron the Time-Lost”, a science-fiction poetry collection. The premise is that Sumadastron (my satirical anagram for Nostradamus) is a stranded time-traveller poetically bemoaning the modern knowledge and comforts lost to him. The poems are all quatrains, indirectly describing modern marvels and wonders in terms incomprehensible to the past but immediately recognizable to us.
The first two of these blogs shall be a couple of pages long, each; but then I shall blog at a rate of one quatrain a day, with commentary by myself and 'Brother Quark'.
Most of this I have already published on Rudy Rucker’s blog, at:
Here it begins:
The Retrodictions of Sumadastron the Time-Lost
To: Rudy Rucker
From: Nathaniel Hellerstein
Re: the Retrodictions of Sumadastron
You want science fiction for FLURB Webzine, and I have something that might qualify, but I’m not sure, so I’m running it past you.
Part of the problem is, it’s not by me, but by this late-medieval wiseacre named Sumadastron. According to him, he was born in 1566, and died in 1503. Ha-ha, very funny. According to Wikipedia (although his entry has now been suppressed), he was a jester, magician and juggler. He wrote a bunch of quatrains he called Retrodictions, but the Church put them on the Index Of Forbidden Books, so nobody’s seen them for centuries.
Until now. How did I get ahold of his manuscript? It’s a long story. Short version: I got lost in Chinatown, I wandered into a skanky olde curiosity shoppe, and I found a copy of Mad Magazine with some yellowing pages stuck inside. The elderly proprietor told me, in broken English, that the manuscript had been hidden in the Vatican, given to the Knights Templar, bought by Adam Weisshaupt, appropriated by Napoleon, acquired by the Kaiser, smuggled into Paris, looted by the Nazis, stolen by Stalin, sold to the Moonies, found by Disney, and taken by Scientologists; and it could be mine for just one dollar and thirty-seven cents.
I didn’t believe a word of that, but on a lark I glanced at the manuscript, and my eye lit on Canto One, Quatrain Two. Right away I grokked, “space flight”. Leafing through the manuscript with increasing excitement, I found quatrains about relativity, entropy, electricity, fractals and much else. So I bought the manuscript, along with the Mad Magazine, for a nice round $5. (A real bargain, by the way: that Mad Magazine was the issue with Superduperman.)
At first I had my doubts. What would a 16th century charlatan know about TV, nukes and quantum mechanics? But you see, if this is a hoax, then it’s one I like. Sumadastron sounds the way a castaway time traveler ought to sound. No vague and stupid political predictions; who cares which thug beat which? But cell-phones, cars, vaccination... these are new things, interesting and unanticipated, that made a real difference in people’s lives. The sort of stuff that a real time-traveler would miss.
Mind you, he’s clear enough from our point of view, but to someone in the 16th century, our technology is indistinguishable from magic, and our science is indistinguishable from mysticism. But that’s the life we live!
Frankly, Rudy, Sumadastron has spoiled every other prophet for me. They describe lots of fights, but never any facts. Fooey. Compared to him, they’re all such clueless suck-ups.
Some friends and relatives of mine who’ve seen the Retrodictions want me to carbon-date the manuscript before I publish it. They said I might look foolish if I don’t. But I said this is no time for half-measures. This material has been waiting for centuries; why delay its release a moment longer? Let the People decide if I’m a nut or not!
At first I wanted to send it to Nature Magazine, or the American Physical Review, or the New York Times, or the Nobel Prize committee in Stockholm. But then I realized that anything this big ought to go to the top top rank of the planetary media; and that of course means FLURB. That’s why you get first choice.
But there’s a problem, Rudy; does this qualify as science fiction? Except for the introduction, every single one of Sumadastron’s retrodictions is science; so where’s the fiction? If this doesn’t fit FLURB’s editorial requirements at this time, then please tell me right away, so I can activate plan B: Stockholm.
P.S. recent news: ultraviolet inspection of the ms reveals notes written by “Brother Quark”; evidently a clerical reviewer, possibly from the Inquisition or some other enforcers. I include his notes as well as mine, to illustrate the difference of perspectives.