I recently was posed an interesting question: What was the first email address you ever had? If nothing else that takes me back. In the late 80’s we had Compuserve and GEnie dial-up accounts. There was no SMTP email with those, but I seem to recall in our last years living in Maryland, circa 1992-6, we had a dialup ISP account that did provide email. For the life of me I can’t find any mention of such an address. When we came back to Mass in ‘96, we had accounts on sprynet.com and later mediaone.com.
Anyway that was the starting point of me poking around in all the oldest files I have lying around. In that I cam across the fragment below, the start of a story I had titled “Into the Out”. I remember the characters and the concept very well, and who knows? In coming years I may come back to it. But I had totally forgotten the fragment below. It is crudely copying of Jack Vance in tone, and it’s way longer than I would render such an idea today, but it was a pleasing connection back to my 1990’s self.
So below, the opening pages of INTO THE OUT …
“Another day … when will it give up?” Kenneth Iborgan Teele muttered his customary morning complaint. He sat up straight and swung his feet over the side of the bed, twisting to give first his spine then his neck a crack. He tilted his head left and right, as if listening. On a few past occasions there had been in fact something to hear; for Teele such a situation could betoken nothing good.
Today there was nothing. His morning ritual completed, Teele threw a robe about his shoulders and went off to the kitchen for breakfast, pausing to pick up his data-cache, that was lying on the nightstand. As he went, he pulled aside some drapes, and slid open a window to let a breath of air through the cottage. A bright beam of sunlight described a yellow rectangle on the floor and highlighted wisps of dust floating and turning like asteroids. Teele paused a moment by the window to wonder at the golden yellow orb of Sol, so different from the paper-white lightbulb of Vega. A current anthropological fad suggested that the differences between Earth and Vegan culture stemmed from the quality of light their peoples lived under; Vega 9, under pure white light and razor-edge shadows became a world of crystallized towers and perfect symmetries; Earth under the flickering bonfire-light of Sol grew into a world of subtly blurred distinctions, of brushstrokes instead of penlines.
Teele, of course, knew the folly of hypothesizing after the fact. But he smiled as he recalled a conversation he once had on this very subject, with a self-proclaimed “Chromatic Redemptionist” in a tatty bar on the outworld Hodown.
“You hold then that light influences our brain?” Teele questioned.
“Never doubt it!” the man replied, already half-exalted from drink. “Strands of the visual apparatus intermingle with fiber of the frontal lobe, and the temporal, and even the hippocampus and other areas of the ancient under-brain. In this way the quality of light impinging on the eyes sends impulses of uncertain effect into every area of the mind. Thus, the time the mind functions best is in absolute darkness – and even then, so many pathways have been warped from a lifetime of seeing that there is little improvement to be gained.”
“But as I understand it, your creed admits the possibility of redemption from this state?”
“The lost world Eden orbits a star of the perfect light, of an exact spectral quality that will allow the mind to function in its perfection, as it was meant to be. To see the healing beams of the sun of Eden is to think and perceive as the original man, innocently and cleanly. Thus, when mankind attains Eden, the numerous ills of our myriad warped societies will be cleansed.”
“A happening we all fervently hope for, to be sure. Yet I wonder, since all the modulations of light can be created by simple machinery, if one might not experimentally generate stellar wavelengths and test them for the enlightening effect you describe. You might save us all a period of unhappiness as we await the discovery of the actual planet Eden.”
“Pah! I refute this paltry hypothesis! Man cannot replicate by craft the sublime frequencies of Eden; that you suggest such a thing is only evidence of a warped mentality caused by exposure to light.”
“By the same token, since your creed comes from a light-tainted brain, how can we know its veracity? Unless of course, you were swaddled in blindfolds since birth?”
“First you spout heresy, then inveigh against an obvious revelation from the divine; if not for this excellent beer you have purchased for our consumption, I would end our association on the instant!”
“Well then, how do you propose to locate Eden? Presumably you do not command an armada of pioneer-drones.”
The man brushed at the shoulders of his threadbare coat. “You presume correct. Till now, the best I can do is closet myself in absolute dark, and by sheer intuition try to apprehend the location of Eden. My efforts all conclude that Eden lies somewhere in Sagittarius. I then prevail on wandering spacemen to convey me in that direction. I perceive you belong to this class, and since you are of a sympathetic bent you can no doubt provide me a berth, possibly even joining me in my search … ”
“I fear my business Out is done; my plans take back through the Door and In.”
“Always worldly pursuits stand in the way of salvation. Shall we not at least take more beer? And consider those ladies at the end of the bar – do they not grow in attractiveness even as we watch?”
“I believe it is the light of barrooms that causes this effect.”
“As good a cause as any – but still the effect remains. Ladies! Are you occupied? Observe my friend; a bravo of the spacelanes – and myself, a searcher among stars …”
Strange, the things we choose to include in our memories, Teele thought.