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Aug 1, 2011

The Olmec Intervention


By any measure I get an "F" in Pop Culture. When Firefly was shown on the Science Channel this year I thought it was a new television show. Now I see that there is a movie called Apollo 18 in the works.

I've been searching for a new title for a collaboratively written story that was originally called Apollo 23. If I had to select a title today I'd go for something like The Janus Intervention. It would probably be best to use "The Mayan Intervention", but the story meanders back through Earth's history to the Olmec civilization in search of a way to pretend that an as yet unknown Mesoamerican script might be found, one that influenced the development of the Mayan civilization.

Apparently Apollo 18 is a horror movie. I'm not a fan of horror. The only horror movie I've watched was The 2 Headed Transplant, which was enough to last me for life in the horror genre. I've never understood the idea of seeking out experiences that cause you to experience fear. In "The Face" by Jack Vance, the protagonist, Kirth Gersen, hunts down Lens Larque who is one of the most well-known criminals in the galaxy. Lens Larque is famous for making use of his whip, Panek. Gersen is warned that he will be taken by Lens Larque to a secret place where he will slowly and carefully be flayed. Gersen is a cool dude, but the thought of being "given to Panek" puts him on edge. Gersen seems more human because he fears Lens Larque and his whip, but horror is not a major part of Vance's story.

I've been thinking about including the practice of human sacrifice in the story of Pultep, the time traveler who is sent back to prevent Olmec civilization from developing science and technology. I'm thinking that "The Olmec Intervention" is basically the introduction of prescientific thinking and practices into the Olmec civilization, with an emphasis on astronomy. In order to prevent the Olmecs from developing a civilization based on science, Pultep could push the Olmecs towards some unpleasant religious practices such as human sacrifice. It has even been suggested that the Olmecs might have practiced child sacrifice, which seems quite horrific to me. I guess the idea was that continuation of life had a cost...you had to sacrifice something that was valuable in order to assure continued life.

I've been shaped by living in a culture where it is common to think about self-sacrifice. Pultep is asked to sacrifice his chance for a comfortable life as a Genesaunt in order to save humanity from global disaster. Does it take more courage to sacrifice yourself or your child? Could Pultep find himself in the position of having to use child sacrifice to save humanity?

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