Catching up on a sprawling space opera, societal collapse, and other ambitious proceedings


Between fretting about the cat peeing outside her litter box and fearing a Reign of Retribution and ‘American carnage’ if Donald the Dark Heart returns to the White Throne, I try to keep up with long-simmering, perhaps too ambitious, projects. Chief among them is a sprawling, speculative fiction work I’ve tinkered with since my 34-year-old son collected MAGIC The Gathering cards as a boy.

Titled ‘SAINT STEPHEN’S DREAM: A Space Opera,‘ I envision the effort as a multi-book series, embellished and promoted via videos, podcasts, original songs, and live performance. (SEE ‘perhaps too ambitious ‘ above). As someone who grew up mainlining sprawling sci-fi sagas, from Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series, to Olaf Stapledon’s ‘Last and First Men,’ to Ray Bradbury’s epic, if melancholy, “Martian Chronicles’ story cycle, ‘SSD’ — as I shorthand the title — pays homage to this lineage. Meanwhile, it addresses contemporary concerns such as climate collapse, the lure of autocracy in trying times, and artificial intelligence re-routing and possibly rewiring human development. Below are some old and new SSD-related creations.


A production of and AmpMediaProject

The first public performance of any aspect of SSD was a 2011 rock opera-style performance, featured as an official event at that year’s FestivALL Charleston in West Virginia’s capital city, a citywide arts and culture event. As the credits roll on the trailer above, note the ticket shout-out for the event, co-sponsored by an old venture of mine dubbed ‘The Web Theater of WestVirginiaville.’ If unable at the moment to view the 2-minute-45-second video, below is the script read by the Gandalf-sounding narrator. (Actually, myself, my voice slowed down via audio editing magic):

‘The Earth was broken. The world itself, Nature, the planet’s biological rhythms — they seem to have failed outright well after the 21st century got underway. So began The Diaspora, The Leavetaking — into Earth orbit and beyond. What do you call it? Everyone has their own nicknames. The Great Departure? The 10,000 ships? So began the next chapter in the sorry, but ever human tale of Homo sapiens — Nuova Terra. New Earth. A ridiculous name for a cataclysmic species that bungled the one planet it had.’

~ from 2011 trailer for ‘SAINT STEPHEN’S DREAM: A Space Opera’


A production of and AmpMediaProject

The space opera unfolds what happens after Earth reaches a tipping point from cancerous, heedless human poisoning of the planet’s air, water, and land. Nature seems to collapse or retreat into itself, appearing no longer to abide large-scale human habitation. Water tables drop from reach and haywire weather bedevils failing industrial society. There follows a painful, halting return to pre-modern agrarian societies beset by warring fiefdoms and banditry — except for a few well-defended wealthy outposts of modernity .

Ten thousand ships of all sizes flee into low-earth orbit and beyond, as a dazed humanity struggles to reorganize itself in what comes to be known as the reconstitued societies of New Earth. Powerful leaders ordain that a return to the dying Earth is no longer possible, even as ancient Earth-borne rivalries — Sunni vs Shia, West vs East, rich vs poor, white versus anyone different — appear to simply reconvene in Earth orbit.


The most powerful leaders in the Diaspora decree that the several hundred thousand humans who escaped the planet before its collapse should lie back and be content in their cramped, space-borne lives. After all, they have rich, full-immersion web environments, endless alternative realities into which people may escape, fleeing from the reality of the warehoused beds and tiny metal capsules where most people now reside on the great space vessels. ‘Who are you going to be today?’ asks the holographic computer each new ‘morning‘ in space, as people rove through history, their avatars embodying the latest characters, happenings and trends.

One of the most powerful leaders of the space fleets, the Doge of Nuova Venezia, has brought to life 16th century Venice as an immersive environment on his great ship, La Serenissima. A raggedy band of performers, rebels, dreamers and fools, aided by the strange ‘trans-humans’ known as the Shua, oppose this new order. They willfully ‘unplug’ from the immersive web. They secretly gather in far-flung niches of the great ships, including a roving pop-up club called Third Eye Cabaret. They keep alive the hope of returning to Earth, inspired by the 9th century writings of an Irish monk named Brother Stephen, whose ‘dream book‘ diaries seem to foretell the Earth’s despairing future, with just the slightest hint of salvation.


A production of and AmpMediaProject

Suffocated by life in the crowded space ‘boats,’ and desperate to experience the physical reality of an Earth they are told is dead and gone, a few souls risk sneaking to the surface. This, despite the fact that their version of the Web tells them — and shows them via altered, falsified footage — that the planet remains a toxic, deadly hellhole. (Even as the rich and powerful know this not to be the case, much to their benefit). For while most of the world’s old industrial society lies in ruin or barely creaks along, a revived village and tribal life continues as ancient traditions revive, renew or begin to prosper. Among them: the horseback Plains Indians; the Haudenosaunee Confederacy; Amish and Shaker life, Incan civilization from Quito to Santiago; and beyond.

One woman sneaks to Earth in a pod, masquerading as a villager at the local Honeysuckle Faire in a place that used to be called Ohio in Old America. Entranced by her, a villager plucks flowers to adorn her hair and they dance and talk into the night. Yet, as dawn approaches, she must return to space lest her vehicle be seen and her theft of the pod discovered. Excusing herself, she dashes into the woods, rising on levitation boots to the vehicle. Yet her would-be lover pursues and she is glimpsed rising into the air along with some other souls in the woods. So, the legend of ‘The Queen of the Honeysuckle Faire’ begins. The video above is my live performance of the song ‘Honeysuckle Faire’ from the SSD soundtrack, performed May 4, 2024, with a crackerjack house band at the The 2nd Annual Coal River Songwriters’ Festival at the Alban Arts Center in St. Albans, W.Va..

All too ambitious? Perhaps. But please free subscribe to and we shall see together.

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