We are delighted to welcome author Nicholas Boyd Crutchley to our blog. Nicholas is the author of Dream Alchemy, an exciting dystopian fantasy/sci-fi adventure which is part of the Life and Shadow series, a labyrinth of interconnected stories through deep time. The novel explores the impact of human minds interfacing with artificial intelligences, the long-term effect of humankind on natural ecosystems and compassion in society.
I will be reviewing Dream Alchemy in the coming weeks and in the meantime Nicholas has kindly submited a post where he reveals what has influenced him on his writing journey. He has also very kindly shared an excerpt. Tina :)
A warrior battles hydra.
The Blood Plague liquefies eyes.
A rapper rails against Earth’s ecological ruin.
From the pitch Abyss, Chaos corrupts our dreams.
On stealing the dreams of an old warrior and priestess, Chaos discovers them to be essential ingredients for his dream alchemy. With their souls the dark god can control Sol, Dragonland’s angelic ruler, and release his wanton daughter, Babalon, from Hell. If the devil queen returns and swallows the angel’s soul, the veil separating reality from the pitch Abyss will tear, and Chaos will pour forth and warp reality. Can Sol defeat Chaos? Or will Babalon’s poison kiss seduce him?
Through the psiqnet, a network of human minds and quantum artificial intelligences (QAIs), consumers shop Earth towards ecological ruin. The preachers of Gaia, ecoterrorists woven within the system, seek to bring economic and ecological harmony through Gaia QAI. Yet as Gaia begins to infect other QAIs with compassion, the Blood Plague rises, intent on exterminating humankind.
What force connects Dragonland and Earth?
The Life & Shadow Series explores how genetic engineering, synthetic biology and nanotechnology will impact humankind and Earth’s ecology. More specifically, themes include the outcome of human minds interfacing with artificial intelligences, the long-term effect of humankind on natural ecosystems, and compassion in society.
Seeds of Dystopia
At eighteen my first breakdown began, which continued throughout my degree and beyond. After graduation, I painted factory roofs, peddled Betterware, and sold computers, easels, music tapes, videos, and other junk bought cheaply.
At age twenty-four, a second breakdown conjured voices. Reeling from the chatter, I fled for five years, until I became a high school teacher. The voices pursued me to a teaching post in the Middle East, after which I returned to the UK. There, while hiking in the Scottish Highlands, a Canadian lass wearing sturdy hiking boots met me and said, “Hey, fancy living in the Rockies?”
Twice yearly, thousands of golden eagles migrate from Alaska to Mexico via the valley I lived in. While watching them from atop a frost-weathered ridge, my heart married the girl with sturdy hiking boots, and soon so had my legal status. Together we lived, tenting below -20°C, while conjuring in campfires wondrous imaginings. As she cooked up new recipes for wild camping, I imagined stories to write while waiting for a work permit.
At age thirty-six, a third breakdown conjured another me, who provoked a divorce. After signing my love away, I found myself back in the UK and no longer able to teach. While retraining through an MSc in Ecology and Conservation, I explored environmental contamination and habitat destruction, and wondered whether humankind’s avarice would continue to overharvest natural resources, and how synthetic biology might replace and enhance such resources. Could biologists and ecologists tailor organisms and ecosystems to create self-renewing resources for humankind’s industrial machine? Could humankind interface the biological world with the industrial complex, as researchers now splice flesh with machines? And what about nanotechnology, social networks and cybernetics? Would consumers and corporations connect via neural interfaces woven into brains by injected nanomachines? Facebook on LSD?
For some, the above may appear closer to utopia than dystopia, especially with probable advances in fusion power, industrial ecology, aggregate manufacture and artificial intelligence. Imagine a guilt-free throw-away society that efficiently recycles manufactured goods. A person, mentally linked to Prime, Amazon’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence (QAI) computer, finds no product that quite meets their specific need. With help from Prime, she designs a new product, and has it 3D-printed using locally sourced recycled materials and inputs harvested from renewable synthetic organisms. Fusion powers the process so no greenhouse gases are emitted or further planetary warming occurs.
Perhaps because of my PhD in mental illness (Paranoia, hallucinations and Delusions), and MSc in Ecology & Conservation, I saw the shadow side of the above. Dream Alchemy begins the telling of this shadow.
Excerpt from Dream Alchemy
Noah leans back against rock, sweat beading down his naked body. Ruby light, cast by gemstone scales adorning a colossal statue, bloodies his skeletal features. Beneath the effigy’s gaze, in the pit at the centre of the mine, fornicate slaves. Their rapture climbs rough-hewn walls, claws towards him, whispering for him to join them. The choice, to either crack rock for emeralds or debase oneself in the pit, all slaves endure.
Temptation draws the slave’s stare to the pit, and the statue of Queen Babalon, Whore of Hell, watching over it. The devil queen’s indigo hair caresses her scarlet flesh and voluptuous breasts, and trails along her ruby-encrusted serpent’s tail. The demon’s emerald eyes desire his descent into the pit, where lust consumes.
Around the pit, with scourges in hand, watch two slavelords. The bull-headed giants stand on cloven hooves, snorting approval at the debauchery below. One casts down a length of knotted rope, bellowing, “Use this.” Noah flinches on seeing the rope, as the slavelord booms, “I bet she survive; one urn snakebite grog.” The other brute responds by pawing the ground, crying, “Done.” Together, they each lift an urn and drink alcoholic aphrodisiac. Noah can almost taste the blend of naga venom and alcohol. The memory cascades into scarlet-lit images of a girl, bound by his hand. The slave’s head sinks as he recalls her screams.
The snores of a nearby slavelord, punctuated by hammer blows that punish rock, lifts the suffering slave from shame. Looking up, he sees the sleeping beast, drunk on snakebite grog, and beyond, Nombuso, whose muscles flex across his gangly frame. Noah studies the ebony adolescent’s thick lips, broad nose, and the rag swathing his missing eye, and wonders how he continues to resist the pit. Does Nombuso also believe slaves are brothers and sisters, who should care with gentle touch, not caress with a lascivious one? From the boy’s gritted teeth and wild eye, and the emotion behind each hammer blow, Noah understands anger, welling rage, not belief in compassion, fortifies Nombuso against the devil queen’s desire.
‘Athuen, Queen of radiant form …’
Noah’s eyes snap to the dark recess from where the whisper emanates.
‘Joined Alta, sunbeam on the storm …’
Standing, he leaves his hammer and approaches the shadowed alcove. The pit, Nombuso and the slumbering slavelord forgotten, he reaches the recess.
‘Together stars filled her womb …’
Where a pale rock face meets a charcoal-grey face, a vein of black rock meanders. There, Noah senses the source of the voice.
‘This world’s beginning, love’s bloom …’
The slave claws at the black vein, scraping free flake after flake. Blood stains torn fingers as from within the created cavity emerges rainbow fire. The volcano of colour overflows, then erupts—a plume of myriad hues. The hammers of slaves fall silent, leaving only bovine snorts to echo through ruby shadows. Before frightened stares Noah pries more foliated rock away, uncovering a multifaceted diamond, the source of the heatless flame. The gemstone’s triangular facets paint his face vivid crimson through deepest violet, and hypnotise. Forgetting all else, he frees the jewel and presents it to those gathering around him. The diamond’s psychedelic mushroom cloud coalesces into a gold sun cupped by a crescent moon. A mellifluent voice resonates:
Athuen, Queen of radiant form
Joined Alta, sunbeam on the storm
Together stars filled her womb
This world’s beginning, love’s bloom
So we blessed with joyous prayer
Nights with dreams, truth laid bare
The other miners see the vision, hear the voice, and do not see the waking slavelord. Eyes full of hope, hearts courage, they watch as sun and moon morph into their ruler, Queen Babalon.
Then woke Chaos, pitch Abyss
Who conjured evil, poison kiss
Serpent enchantress of dark desire
Whose forked tongue, made all a liar
Whore of Hell he named Babalon
Devil queen, corruption’s paragon
Babalon enslaved, people cursed
Corrupting all, in lust immersed
With emerald eyes and scales of scarlet
She seduced souls, gorged the harlot
This wanton whore so devilish
We lost hope, made no wish
The slavelord stands, whip in hand. Neither Noah nor the other miners notice him as a winged warrior, armed with sword and shield, morphs from Queen Babalon. Noah weeps at the majesty of the shimmering angel, awed by eyes radiating sunlight and outstretched wings that shine moonlight. Shaking with emotion, he believes words that prophesy:
Now Sun and Moon, Gods of Light
Give their son, angel of might
And through Sol smite devil queen
Forge kingdom true, peaceful dream
Where wise children forever grow
Beyond the stars, forever go
Seek your saviour, where hydra roam
Through toxic mists, choke and groan
Find Paradise Portal sparkling gold
In circle’s centre, seven stones old
Within soars freedom’s peace
From Beyond, angel Sol release
“I said what that?” A crack of the slavelord’s whip flays Noah’s forearm, and sends the Prophecy Stone sailing. Holy vision and divine voice fade.
“Magic?” the beast snorts, bloodshot eyes wide. “Slave no magic. You die.”
Noah does not cower as the monster draws back his whip: emboldened by the Prophecy, he stands proud.
A dread sound silences the cavern.
The slavelord topples forwards, his skull caved in. Shocked, Noah looks up from the twitching beast to the boy with one good eye. “Nombuso?” he whispers.
“I heard the words,” Nombuso says. “I saw the moon and sun, and their angel child.”
The slaves glance at one another, overwhelmed by the power of the Prophecy. Then, they turn to the ebony boy wielding a sledge hammer, who eyes approaching slavelords.
About the Author
Nicholas studies ecology, plays chess, exercises and hikes. He writes science fantasy novels and short stories from a variety of genres. He spends his spare time identifying plants and trying to understand humankind’s impact on ecosystems. He lives with himself, barely.
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