Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 2, quatrain 7

What slew the mighty lizard lords?
A mountain falling from the sky;
and all that lived were vermin hordes,
the ancestors of you and I.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
A cautionary tale about the fall of the proud.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about the extinction of the dinosaurs due to asteroid impact.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 2, quatrain 6

A silver bird with screaming wings;
your captain says, enjoy the ride;
from coast to coast it swiftly flings;
I’ve seen the clouds from either side.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
More dealings with the spirits of the air.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about airplane flight.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 2, quatrain 5

Unstable Nature’s planless plan
will turn your prophesies to lies;
you do not need a weather man
to know which way the butter flies.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
More chaotic ravings!

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about the butterfly effect; with a shout-out to a rock lyric.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 2, quatrain 4

It sojourned on a dusty creek
by twin peaks under rusty sky;
from distant Earth it came to seek
with millions peeking through its eye.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
Surely a one-eyed monster such as this is an inhabitant of the Inferno.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about Sojourner space-probe’s visit to Mars.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 2, quatrain 3

The time goes slow, the length turns thin;
so heavy near the rate of light;
an age’d meets a youthful twin:
the side‑effects of stellar flight.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
These mystics rave sometimes, do they not? Evidently an encounter with the Divine deranges the earthly senses.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about relativistic space-time contraction near the speed of light.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 2, quatrain 2

The master mechanics of nothing and one
link up to engender the censor’s distress.
A virtueless bubble has virtual fun;
the worldly web in a state of undress.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
Are these sorcerers consorting carnally with spirits?

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about internet pornography.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 2, quatrain 1

Elliptic flies the arc of Mars
while falling free beyond the air.
The Love that moves the sun and stars;
its cosmic reach is inverse square.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
An elliptic commentary indeed! It condemns the demonic spirit of War to an eternal fall, while assuring us that God’s love for us is the opposite of conventional.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about orbital mechanics; Kepler’s Laws and the Inverse Square law of gravitation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Human Resources Department to Mitt Romney

I interrupt this blogging of Retrodictions to bring you a letter to Mitt Romney, persumptive Republican candidate for President, from the Human Resources Department, regarding his refusal to show his tax returns to his possibly-future employers.

Blogging of Retrodictions will resume Monday.


To: Mitt Romney
From: Human Resources Department
Re: Tax Disclosure

Dear Mr. Romney:

Be advised that thorough financial disclosure is a precondition for employment in the position that you seek. We will also require a medical examination, a drug test, and at least two references; specifically from the State of Massachusetts and from Bain Capital. We know that you worked there, and we need to know what you did there.

Please respond soonest. Compliance is not optional.

Human Resources Department

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 10

My number’s called, I hear it ring;
I flip it open, put it through;
from distant shore I hear you sing;
so good to have a chat with you.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
Daily life amongst the sorcerers!

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about mobile phones.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 9

Not faith, nor pride, nor fear, nor shame,
nor doctrines work Her wonders out;
by guess, by test, by proof, by claim;
the philosophic Way of Doubt.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
He is both faithless and a nature-worshipper.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about the scientific method.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 8

A bovine needle prevents disease;
expires a fire more dire than war;
your body’s on guard, your mind’s at ease
yet the Porcelain Throne saves even more.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
This is a tribute to our holy Pope’s Swiss Guards; and of course the Papacy itself (see below).

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about vaccination, with a shout-out to sanitation (see below).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 7

By G, by T, by C, by A
by double helix in each germ
by count of twisted ladder’s way
the unity of life confirm.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
A theurgic invocation of pagan gods. Note the caduseus.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about the DNA molecule.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 6

By sightless light we send our voices;
a dish hears pictures cast from Heaven;
a hundred shows, a hundred choices;
tune in for news, film at eleven.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
This is hallucinatory babble!

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about television.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 5

Select the best, that’s Nature’s plan;
survive confusion, want and strife;
from fish to frog, from ape to man;
thus grew the family tree of life.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
What peculiar paganism is this, which calls a man cousin to a fish?

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about evolution by natural selection.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 4

A silvery sliver fuels mighty engines;
the tiniest spark of stuff goes smash;
alchemic achievement with a vengeance;
but who will dare take out the trash?

Commentary by Brother Quark:
As ever, alchemists promise wealth and power but deliver dross.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is about nuclear energy. Alchemy indeed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 3

Infinite star beyond star beyond star
should fill the sky with light;
the growth of Heaven, the red of far
explains the dark of night.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
Such strange metaphysical astrology! Heaven grows? Darkness needs explaining?

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is Olber’s Paradox. The sky in an infinite universe would be a solid blaze of starlight; the explanation is the expansion of the Universe.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 2

A fiery chariot flying high;
a newborn man‑made moon goes beep;
then eyes and voices in the sky;
a tiny step, a giant leap.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
Again, perplexing. Is this about dealings with the spirits of the air?

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
It’s about space flight.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Retrodictions, canto 1, quatrain 1

Mechanic’s predetermined goal;
to the cosmic clock be a slave:
but tiny chaos saves the soul
for is light a mote or a wave?

Commentary by Brother Quark:
This incomprehensible babble is typical of our charlatan. As near as I can tell he is saying that the angel of darkness is perplexed as to the nature of the soul.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This one’s about the collapse of classical determinism due to quantum uncertainty.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Retrodictions of Sumadastron the Time-Lost: introduction 2

Retrodictions of Sumadastron the Time-Lost

By Sumadastron the Time-Lost
About Himself

Poor Sumadastron, lost in time!
One physic law he could outfox;
he hid his prophesies in rhyme
and thus avoided paradox.

He predicted no plots, he scried no ploys;
no battles he foresaw;
but he babbled of baths and baby toys
and universal law.

He raved of an age of wonder;
of magic mechanical tricks
of laboring bolts of thunder
and of thinking arithmetics.

He thus foretold what he knew best
and altered no-one’s fate;
so when at last his jest is guessed
by then ’twill be too late.

Until that day, no king nor priest
nor a knight, to win a bet
will pay attention in the least
to the Man from Isn’t Yet!

Poor Sumadastron, time-lost fool!
The cosmos will reject
the least exception to the rule
that cause precedes effect!

So fact with fiction he would mix
for those with eyes to see;
born fifteen hundred and sixty-six,
died fifteen zero three.

Commentary by Brother Quark:
This deluded fool, claiming to be from a place that does not yet exist, sets himself up as a prophet of an age ruled by godless sorcery and natural philosophy. He hides his confusion behind the excuse of ‘time paradox’ – whatever that is! – and claims that his incomprehensible visions would be clear to his absurd futurians, and not to us, due to the limits of our knowledge. This much I know; an era as he describes would be an age of miracles and wonders.
Recommendation: suppress. Keep a copy in the Library, but no more.

Commentary by N. Hellerstein:
This is an age of miracles and wonders; but only a Sumadastron would notice it as such.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Retrodictions of Sumadastron the Time-Lost; introduction 1

                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
            Dear Rudy:
            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.
            Sincerely,         Nathaniel
            (ms enclosed)

            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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Age of Miracles and Wonders, an Underfable

          An Age of Miracles and Wonders
          An Underfable

          Once upon a time the Shaman of the tribe took another swig of berry juice and said, “In the far future, men will start fires with the flick of a thumb!”
          The other tribesmen around the campfire said, “Sure they will.”
          The Shaman continued, “The people of the far future will have meat and fruit, grain and eggs, fresh all year round! Their caves will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer! They’ll always have clean water!”
          The other tribesmen said, “But of course.”
          The Shaman said, “The people of the far future,” then he took another swig of berry juice and continued, “will have flameless light at midnight! They’ll see sights, and converse with friends, beyond the horizon! They will run faster than jaguars and fly higher than eagles! The people of the far future,” he said, and took another swig of berry juice, “will see the other side of the Moon!”
          The other tribesmen said, “Who can doubt it?”
          The Shaman’s woman arrived. She squatted down, grabbed his head, sniffed his breath, and said, “I see!” Then she took him by the hand, stood him up, and led him back to their cave to sleep it off.

          Moral: What is now proved was once only imagined.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Toothseeker 6: Dark Light

6. Dark Light

Back in my office, just before dawn, I reported to Sogwa.  She had set down my fee, the Tooth Fairy money.  After I told my story, she said, “You have forgotten something.  Two things.”
“Remember that time-loop?  Where you clued yourself in?”
“How could I forget?”
“First time through, the other you said, ‘tooth mouse’, and you said, ‘tooth whaat?’ Second time through, you said, ‘tooth mouse’, but the other you said, ‘tooth raat?’  So which was it?  ‘Whaat’ or ‘raat’?”
“Huh!” I said.  “I must have misheard myself.”
“With those big ears of yours?” Sogwa mewed.  “Or maybe that was the Tooth Fairy pretending to be you.”
“So what did you really say?”
“I guess I’ll never know.  Time loops can be tricky that way.”
“I get it.  And then there’s Bugsy and Rickie-the-Rat.”
“What about them?”
“You said that the two of them are the mayor and the crime lord, but you forgot to mention which one is which.”
“You’re right, I didn’t say!  Well, you see –”
“ –  no, never mind, don’t tell me!”
“Don’t you want to know?”
“What does it matter?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said.  “Matter of fact, there’s lots of things I don’t know.  After this case…  I’m not sure what to believe anymore.”
Sogwa said, “What does it matter if the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist?  After all, she admitted it, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she did.”
“And the teeth do go away, don’t they?”
“The money’s real enough, too,” I said, nodding towards the Tooth Fairy money.
“Yes!  And as for her…  Well, what do you think of her?”
“You mean, aside from not existing?”  I thought it over.  “I like her,” I decided.  “She’s crazy, but she’s honest.”
“Same thing,” said Sogwa.
“She means well, and she likes what she does.”
“So what’s the problem?  Look, does she do a good job?”
“She does a great job, but her job is being a bad example!  A ridiculous myth!  A self-refuting fiction!  She’s a failed lie, repeated like a bad joke to ward off worse lies!”
“And this bothers you?”
“Her job is to be an obvious fraud!  She’s a satire!
“That’s not such a bad job,” said Sogwa.  “Actually it sounds kind of fun.”
“But what about us?  You and me?  We’re caught up in this nonexistence thing too!  This whole town is!  We’re all fictions!”
“What does that matter either?  If that’s our job, then why not do it well?”
I thought it over.  “So if we’re fictions, then we might as well be good fictions?”
“That’s right,” said Sogwa.
I chirped, “Are you really OK with this, doll?”
She purred, “You got a better plan, boy-toy?”
She stood on her hind legs.  I stretched down.  We rubbed noses.
She slinked away.  Just short of the door she looked back, meowed, slowly winked her big oval eyes, and glided out.
What a doll!