#atozchallenge: M is for Mendaihu and Shenaihu

Yin-yang.  That’s the theme of the stories within the Mendaihu Universe.

It’s about balance.  There is both evil and good within us.  We rarely like to admit it, but we are all full of conflicting morals and ethics.  We are driven both by our own emotions and thoughts, and what we are taught or expected to feel and think, and quite often they are all at loggerheads with each other.

I wanted to play around with this idea:  what, ultimately, is the right thing to do?

This question is posited throughout the Bridgetown trilogy.  Every character faces this same dilemma at some point in their arc.  Each character is given some kind of ascension in their spirit, some form of advanced knowledge, and they must choose how to utilize it.

They are also given an advanced awareness as well: they are now conscious of other spirits around them, whether they like it or not.  And ultimately this means that if they are to use their new knowledge, they are acutely aware of how it would affect not only themselves, but those around them.

The Mendaihu are the watchers, the protectors, the saviors.  And what of the Shenaihu?  They’re the keepers of the ethereal: the mind, the heart, and the soul.” — Matthew Davison, The Persistence of Memories

The Mendaihu are often seen as having the upper hand, as they are more physical in their presence.  They are the ones quietly doing their rounds, fully and completely aware of nearly everything and everyone around them, ensuring that every person out there is at peace.  They are the ones willing to lay down their lives for those around them, if necessary.  They may see the Shenaihu as troublemakers, the ones who are too quick to cause problems.

The Shenaihu are acutely aware of how the spiritual realm works.  They are the ones keeping to themselves, uncomfortably too aware of nearly everything and everyone around them.  They wish everyone could find their own peace, but are willing to assist if and when necessary.  They may see the Mendaihu as too quick to involve themselves in everyone else’s problems.

Both are liberal in their thoughts and actions; both are conservative in their thoughts and actions.  Both have faults, both have strengths.  They may be coming from completely opposite sides, but they both crave the same thing: peace of spirit.  Both are driven by the same goal: to do the right thing to achieve that peace.

The only answer, ultimately, is to find a perfect balance of both.  This is the cho-nyhndah [cho-NYEEN-dah] spirit.  Equally Mendaihu and Shenaihu in thought, heart, and deed.


#atozchallenge: L is for Lightwalking

Still from Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World

Lightwalking is usually one of the first things most recently awakened Mendaihu and Shenaihu learn.  It is the process of moving from one fixed point to another by ‘stepping into Light’ — the term for allowing one’s spirit to take hold and control the movements of the physical body.  The spirit will transport itself and the body to the desired location and both will step back out of the Light again.  As the spirit is not bound by physical restraint, this travel method is much faster than even FTL.  In essence one is stepping into an advanced level of reality.

The same theory applies to commercial travel on a grander scale.  Each province has its own Nullport, where shuttles will send travelers up to a geosynchronous orbital satellite (in the case of Bridgetown, this would be Tigua Bay Station), where they would then enter nullflight ships.  These ships will slingshot a safe distance from Earth and then enter Light on a much larger scale, sending the ship to its intended destination.

The large-scale Light-travel is called nullflight, due to the early First Contacters misunderstanding the term for the Meraladian technology used in Light-Travel, called ajyinul [ah-ZHYEE-nool], thinking it referred to ‘null’, or an idea that this kind of travel took place in non-space.  The term stuck, and is still used to this day.

One’s vision while moving in Light can cause concern and confusion, depending on what you’re doing within it.  If you’re in a fixed place and not moving too much, everything you see will be in incredibly sharp focus, regardless of how near or far it is from you.  This can be rather discomforting for first-timers, but one eventually gets used to it.  The trick is to focus only on the person or thing you need to focus on and filter out everything else.  On the other hand, if you’re in motion, your surroundings will still be sharp but discolored and sometimes stretched out.  [The above still from Until the End of the World is pretty much the closest to what it looks like.]


I’d come up with this kind of travel early on, basing it on various things such as astral travel, as I wanted the characters to be able to visit other worlds such as Trisanda (and in effect, Meraladh and other CNF planets) in a relatively quick amount of time.  It went through quite a number of different terms over the years, but once I figured out my science behind it, relating it to all the other Light events in the Mendaihu Universe, it all fell into place.

There are, of course, a number of rules whenever I use Lightwalking.  First, exit and reentry will always cause a ‘snap’ of air and sometimes even a brief white flash.  There is no chance of reentry into an already occupied position; the movement of the spirit and its ability to sense other beings and objects makes this possible.  [However, if one isn’t quite used to Lightwalking, one may reenter at the wrong altitude and reappear a few feet up in the air.  It’s a common rookie mistake.]  A Lightwalker can take one or two people along with them with little problem, though the distance is usually shorter than intended.

And most importantly, Lightwalking is the only way to reach Trisanda at this time.

#atozchallenge: k is for kiralla

Creator unknown, borrowed from fanpop.com

The kiralla was the answer to the question:  what does someone’s soul look like?

Or more to the point, what is the aspect of someone whose soul has achieved a divine level and balance of both Mendaihu and Shenaihu spirit?  The ultimate ascension, where they are able to control both sides of themselves without inner turmoil.  In the context of the Mendaihu Universe, the kiralla aspect is in ancestral memory: it’s what the purest Trisandi spirit looks like.  So in essence, if one is kiralla, either naturally or awakened through ritual, then they are considered to have truly returned to their spiritual roots.

[Yeah, I know, pretty heavy stuff there.]

The idea of the kiralla came to me during the 1995-6 season of me reading all kinds of New Age books.  I’d borrowed the idea of reptilians in fantasy and conspiracy (thank you David Icke) and the Pleiadians (thank you Barbara Marciniak) and played around with it for a while.  What if aliens were a normal and integral part of human reality?  I’d chosen dragons as the physical embodiment, aware of their mythical and mystical history.  I took out the conspiracy and the trope of aliens-as-villains (as well as its overused cousin, aliens-as-overlords-because-us-humans-are-ignorant-and-weak-insects) and re-introduced them as our long-forgotten ancestral kin.

Which ultimately means that we humans are also able to ascend enough to become kiralla as well.  This fact alone makes up quite an important part of the Bridgetown Trilogy and the Mendaihu Universe.

The strength of the kiralla is as fearsome as their presence.  Generally they are about thirty feet long from snout to tail tip, about ten to fifteen feet tall.  Their wingspan is about thirty to forty feet.  Their coloring, shape and physical attributes vary and are related to the Trisandi clan they come from.  They are social creatures, but they are just as fine being on their own for extended periods of time.  Their psionic abilities are unrivaled and immeasurable.  They are able to Lightwalk very long distances in a very short amount of time, either in kiralla or in human form.  The feel their highest responsibility is in keeping an unending, protective (yet rarely interactive) watch over humans and other spiritual kin.

And yes, we will be seeing a lot more of them in The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light!

* * * * * *

2016-04-13 13.08.44
Dragon by Honeck Sculpture

This little youngster here was my mascot for most of the writing of the trilogy, which I picked up at one of the Readercons I went to.  It was made by Honeck Sculpture. They make excellent statues of all sizes and are definitely worth checking out.

I named it after a character you’ll meet in The Persistence of Memories.

On Religion and Spirituality in the Mendaihu Universe

One of my biggest worries when it comes to the Mendaihu Universe novels, to be honest, is that it would be taken as a ‘religious’ novel, or that it would be mistaken for a soapbox for my own ideas on spirituality.  Granted, the novels have a heavy amount of spirituality, belief and faith involved in the world building, so it might happen yet.

Thankfully my worries have been misplaced so far.

The whole idea of using spirituality in the MU is not to preach or to proselytize, but to imagine a reality in which a belief system, its tenets, miracles, and everything else is not only real, but a natural part of society.  Like the use of spiritual chakra energy as a source of power and strength in anime like Dragonball Z or Naruto, the enlightened people of the MU use their spirit energy for many useful things: innerspeak (clairaudience), physical sensing (clairsentience), reality seeing (claircognizance), and so on.  More to the point, these abilities are part and parcel of Meraladian life — innerspeak is the ‘silent half’ of the Anjshé language, where the intent is projected psychically while the words are spoken, for instance.  All these abilities are from ‘within’ — that is, their souls.  It’s a part of their life organically as well as spiritually.

That’s not to say that I’m ignoring zealotry and bigotry, of course.  There are characters from ADoS forward who use cultural bigotry, even if their reasoning for it is an innocent (to them) ‘you wouldn’t understand’.   The new as-yet-unnamed MU novel reveals a new generation of believers of the One of All Sacred who think of themselves as a special enlightened class personally chosen by their deity — something Denni Johnson would have been horrified to see.  There are those who are committed to their version of their belief, regardless as to whether it conforms to reality.


I will admit that the terrorism that we’ve witnessed in the past twenty years or so (including the past few days) has been a bit of an influence in this universe as well.  The Mendaihu and Shenaihu both contain extremists in their ranks (the kiralla and the nuhm’ndah, respectively), and both have their physical embodiments of such extremism.  But as with everything in this universe, nothing is ever black and white, good and evil, and the MU is no different.  There are gray areas, where the best of intentions lead to bad conclusions, and vice versa.  This is precisely why the Bridgetown Trilogy is not about good triumphing over evil, but about doing the right thing, despite overwhelming outside influence.  And this is also why I chose to paint both sides as fallible.  Both sides have had blood on their hands at some point in their histories.  Neither is without sin.

I’ll also admit I’ve been thinking about this since Friday, after the events that took place in Paris.  Understandably I was shocked by the terrorism that unfolded, but I was also equally as shocked by the white noise that followed in social media — the blaming of an entire religion (or all religion, for that matter), the puerile political taunting, the ‘how can you feel bad when [x] is happening elsewhere’ shaming, and the reactive surface emotions of revenge and vilification.  That white noise, thankfully, has receded somewhat over the weekend.  As they say, cooler heads prevail.  I also saw a beautiful outpouring of compassion and love coming from the same channels, and those are the voices that have remained as the others have begun to die away.

And this, by far, was the hardest part of writing the Bridgetown Trilogy:  trying to make the events of the novels a global spiritual and religious event, and not something that only the main characters are feeling.  I felt that it needed much more than just the population reacting like they were in a Michael Bay film, running away from explosions in glorious slo-mo.  I wanted a more realistic reaction:  This is really happening.  I’m angry/sad/terrified, but I’m not helpless.  I will either stay and fight (accept the personal awakening) or take flight and protect those I love (refuse a personal awakening).  The trick was to passively show these nameless background people reacting, even if it was in just a sentence or two.  The reader sees this three times in the first few chapters of ADoS:  via clairaudience when Nehalé performs the Awakening ritual and senses everyone’s reaction; offscreen, with Nick and Sheila mentioning the number of witnesses they’ve spoken with just after the ritual; and onscreen, when Poe passes a car on the highway on the way to the Crest and notices how eager its occupants are to get out of town.  I pepper these throughout the three books; just a mention or two to remind the reader that the rest of the world is out there, and they’ve been affected as well.

As a writer of fiction, I’m not going to claim my way is the best way to see reality, nor am I trying to push a message.  I’m merely telling a story and unfolding it the best and truest way I know how.  I can only hope that what the reader gets out of it is entertainment, and maybe something to think about as well.

Writing Religion in Genre

Religion can be a very tricky thing to write about in Fantasy and Science Fiction.  It has to be done reasonably well and for good reason.  It also has to have at most a strong backbone for which to base part (or all) of the plot or a character’s makeup.  The writer should not want to overtly use the religion’s place in the story as a soapbox, either, because readers will pick up on that right away.  Nor do you want to pick and choose the ideas of well-known established religions and use them without understanding at least some of its already-established rules and tenets.

In creating the ‘spirituality’ of the Mendaihu Universe — I call it such because it’s not so much an established religion as it is a spiritual state of being — I had to create a belief system that had to follow specific rules.  The First Rule, as it were, was balance.  I had to work within the confines of a yin-yang system, where the Mendaihu and the Shenaihu were not so much mortal enemies as they were parts of a whole.  When one takes action, the other one must respond in kind.  This alone propels the action in A Division of Souls and drives the plot of all three books in the trilogy; when Nehalé Usarai performs the Awakening ritual in the first chapter, the Shenaihu must respond, and do so fivefold.  This will set off even more responding actions from the Mendaihu again, and so on.

This is often where the savior comes in; the character whose life is lived outside of this cycle, who must put a stop to it before both sides utterly destroy each other.  In the trilogy, this is the One of All Sacred.  He or she is not exactly an established deity (in the Mendaihu Universe, that is the Goddess of All That Is), but an outside player of a religious stature who is tasked with returning everything back into a peaceful balance.   The savior often has a somewhat clearer mind than many of the other characters; they’re not wound up in some kind of emotional tailspin or blinded by distraction.  [This can often be their own distraction — their distance from the situation sometimes causes them not to fully understand it.]  The savior’s own story arc is thus not only to Make Things Right Again, but to spiritually ascend in their own way.

What kind of religions have you seen in genre fiction that fascinate you?  If you’ve created your own, how have you worked out the rules?


On Worldbuilding: Fluid History

John: “Hey there, Jeremy, what do you know about holes?”

Jeremy HIllary Boob, PhD: “There are simply no holes in my education.”

–Yellow Submarine

If you’ve ever watched any kind of documentary or series, there’s always some element of “we’re not entirely sure what happened at this point in time, but we can make an educated guess by looking at the following clues” or some such.  The further back we go in time, the harder it is to pinpoint the date of an event; eventually the most we can say is “sometime during the [x] Era.”   Those are extreme examples, though.  Sometimes our view of history changes within a few decades, when we look at the events of a specific time with the eyes of a different generation, maybe even a different culture.

I started thinking about this sometime ago when I started writing the new Mendaihu Universe story.  One of the subplots deals with the events that took place in the original Bridgetown Trilogy, though this new story takes place about seventy years later. Without going into too much detail, our histories of our heroes in that trilogy have become somewhat embellished, even after so short a time.  Denni Johnson, the teenager who had ascended as the earthbound deity the One of All Sacred, is now viewed as a saint, complete with a marble statue that thousands flock to and pray at.  Her sister Caren and Caren’s ARU partner Alec Poe, who never ascended as far as Denni did, are seen as more than human; Caren is believed to be an angelic protector, and Poe is seen as a Mighty Warrior.

And yet, all three were merely human.  Gifted with psionic abilities, just like anyone else in the Mendaihu Universe who have gone through an awakening ritual, but still — they were just as human as the rest of us.

Part of the focus on this new story is how certain people and events in history get changed over the years.  We may have documents, we may have databases and videos, but it still boils down to how the person or event is seen by the viewer.  We put amazing people on pedestals, even if their personalities were less than stellar, because regardless of their infallibility, they changed the world in some way.  The same could be said of horrible people as well; their vileness goes down in history as a grim reminder (even if, on a personal level, they weren’t one hundred percent vile).  We rarely look at these things objectively; we always have some emotional attachment to them, however big or small.

The evolution of historical accuracy fluctuates a lot more than we’d like it to, quite often because of this emotional attachment.  In this new story, the views of the new devout (those who follow the steps of the One of All Sacred — that is, Denni — and hope to find clarity in their lives) have become reasonably established.  However, schisms have already broken out; there are those who see Denni as a savior, and others who see her as an ascended but flawed human.  There are the Elders, the spiritual leaders who have been around for centuries, who are also splitting: those who have embraced the evolution of belief, and those who want to retain the status quo.

It’s a bit of a mess, but that’s the fascinating part of history as it happens.  No one really knows what the hell is going to happen next until it does.


On Spirituality in the Mendaihu Universe: alien and human relations

Many of you have already heard versions of the story as to how I came up with the spiritual setting in the Mendaihu Universe–short version, I was inspired by my own attempts at spiritual enlightenment in the mid- to late-90s, specifically when I started focusing on New Age philosophies. Some of these ideas raised the question as to where souls came from, such as other realities or other planets. I not only found this an interesting twist on spiritualism, but I felt this would be an interesting idea for the basis of a belief system in a novel or a series. That was sometime around 1996-1997, and it evolved over the years between writing the original story The Phoenix Effect (more on that book in a future post) and the finished product. Most of the connections to the original inspiration have gone away, though the general idea remains:

What if the souls of Earth humans really did come from elsewhere?

Which led to many related questions: What is the connection to Earth? Why did these souls choose this planet out of any of the habitable ones in the universe? What is the physical relationship between Earth and this “homeworld” planet? How would it relate to physical, tactile, logical reality?

And lastly, what would happen when we re-established contact with that homeworld?

It took me a good number of years and novel drafts to figure that out.

In the timeline for A Division of Souls, we’ve already been in contact with the Meraladhza for at least three centuries.  First Contact took place in somewhat mundane situations, via long distance communication only. It took nearly a full century before these very humanlike aliens worked with us to facilitate a First Landing. By that time, a few things took place: firstly, the human race on Earth had time to come to terms with The Other Being Out There in the Cosmos to some extent. The cold and true fact that there really are others out there, not to mention that we’d been given proof that we really are all but an infinitely small percentage of all life in the universe, had humbled us deeply. Secondly, these human aliens were just like us in almost every way except for when it came to the inner Self–their inherent spiritualism taught us new ways to overcome (or at least assuage) our Fears of the Other. This was another surprising point in history, considering our own haunted pasts; to put it bluntly, we’d finally had a grown-up put us in our place. [This isn’t to say we finally got rid of wars and extremism and what have you; it’s more that we gradually learned to better chose our fights, and fight them for smarter reasons, with less destruction and fallout.]

The third and the most important point is that, sometime about twenty to thirty years after the First Contact, the Meraladhza explained just who they were: our distant ancestors. [Part of the delayed revelation was rightly and understandably to soften the blow.] There was, of course, a lot of argument and theorizing here: how could the Meraladzha, even when they were so biologically, physically and mentally just the same as us, be our ancestors when we’ve had centuries of Darwinian evolutionary theory to (sort of) prove our own existence? The answer was twofold: physical and spiritual evolution. Physical: the Meraladhza “seeded” our planet quite far back in our history–itself full of holes due to the ravages of time and erosion of known histories–far enough that we had no knowledge nor proof or idea of it. [Yes, that’s a bit vague, but it’s worth focusing on in a later post.] Spiritual: the Meraladhza also instilled a spiritual presence, the human soul, here on the planet. To the Meraladhza, they felt it more important that we be cognizant of our spirit, even if it was the simple “who am I?” question. The remaining seventy or so years before First Landing were spent with alien and human in constant communication, learning about each other like long-separated siblings finally reunited. By the time they arrived, we were all more or less back on the same page.

In the Mendaihu Universe, this spiritualism is one of the strongest traits for both the Meraladhza and the Earth human. By ‘spiritualism’ I mean a deep understanding and reverence for the soul within; it is a Zen of sorts, a highly dedicated and conscious understanding of who we are and our effect on others. Over the years since First Contact and especially after First Landing, many were willingly ‘awakened’ to our ancient Meraladian memories, and with such awakenings came heightening of the senses. To our vision came Veilsight, the ability to view spiritual activity on a heightened level; to our hearing came innerspeak, the ability to hear and subvocalize communication; to our sense of touch came soulsensing, the ability to reach out and “touch” other spirits with our own. Some come into this heightened awareness on their own; others need training and/or awakening ritual; it is a highly regulated and monitored process. Regardless, over the past three centuries it has become an accepted and well-regarded state of being.

More to come:
–On Spiritualism: Mendaihu, Shenaihu, and cho-nyhndah
–On Spiritualism: Levels of belief and practice
–On Spiritualism: the Goddess, the One of All Sacred, and other deities