As some of you know, I've been playing with an alternate-history project for awhile. The Distributive Passions is "Fourierist speculative fiction, with a mutualist message," or something like that. I'm treating it as a place to make speculations about the implications and possibilities of the socialist and libertarian histories which occupy so much of my scholarly time, and to make some broader, less scholarly statements about people, how they interact, and what happens when they try to change the world. Having worked on various outlines and character descriptions, and having found it hard to keep it all straight in my mind, I turned to photo collages as a means of constructing more concrete images of the characters and events in the narratives. Gabriel Solly, the main character in the work, has had his own Myspace page for some time, and I've been sharing some of these collage-sketches with friends there. I've decided to take on the National Novel Writing Month challenge, in order to crank out a big, rough chunk of the narrative, and have set up a gallery for the artwork. Have a look, and let me know what you think.
Gabriel Solly leads a quiet life in the tiny community New Earth, Oregon Territories (Universal Code Union, Owenite-Orthodox), laboring in the Archives of the New Earth Institute, marking time through the last of his council-service years. His mother, Elizabeth Barchester-Solly, of the rifle family, would like him to assume the role, his by hereditary right, of directing intelligence and prophet of the Radical Babelite sect. The church elders would probably prefer that he disappear, much as his father did shortly after Gabe’s birth. His grandfather, the original Prophet, has bequeathed to him a legacy that might well spell the end of Radical Babelism.
Gabe is a child of Socialist America, a true Territorial, educated in a full tour of the Cibola System. But the clock may be ticking on the Territories. The New Federalists seem to be gaining ground in the East, and there are indications that when next the Federal Expeditionary Command turns its attention to the territorial republics they may have something more than the usual “flower wars” in mind.
With his forty-fifth birthday staring him in the face, Gabe knows it’s high time he did something with his life, beyond puttering in the archive and constructing elaborate collages in his studio/study. Or maybe it’s past time. Some years back, the love of Gabe’s life left him to be the female messiah and spokes-model of the revived Saint-Simonian cult, and his current “girlfriend” is quite literally damaged goods—roughly decommissioned military materiel, in the form of a “minor military Madonna,” the cybernetic product of an experiment the Federals would dearly love to forget. She roams the abandoned military reserve that stretches from New Earth west nearly to the ocean. So does the “Man-Bear of the Saint Mary’s,” if the tabloids can be trusted, and everyone knows the woods are teeming with insect-machines. Things have arguably always been strange in New Earth, but the strangeness seems to be growing—all over the world, really.
Enter the Council of Councils (Universal Code Union, Owenite-Orthodox), who call on Gabe to attend an “Intergalactic Encounter” in the Marianas, where, in accordance with Fourierist prophecy, the ocean is turning into something very much like lemonade, and the first stirrings of the Era of Harmony seem to be repairing environmental damage that decades of anti-radiation remediation has hardly dented. Ill-prepared and armed with the most uncertain of mandates, Gabe flies off to give Radical Babelism and the Universal Code Communities a voice in what promises to be something of a replay of the Babelites favorite story.
Landing at Enewetak atoll, Gabe arrives in time to witness in person what most of us watched on tv—the terrorist attacks, the U. N. intervention, the Battle of the Lagoons—and those events send him off on a new journey, in the islands of the Free Fourierists and on the floating platforms of the Pyrate Archipelago, and there he begins his initiation in the mysteries of the Distributive Passions.