Memory Seed At 25, Day 4

by stephenpalmersf

I was young when Memory Seed as it is now known (originally it was Kray) arrived in my conscious mind, and still young when it was published: 30 and 34 respectively. It is not a perfect novel, and there are things I would change. But what things?

One of my main inspirations for the story was environmental destruction being wreaked upon the planet. That destruction had first come to general attention in the 1960s and 1970s, but there was a media focus on it at the end of the 1980s, which deeply affected me. The Green Party made gains in various elections at that time – one of many symptoms of growing unease. I had for a long time been fascinated by James Lovelock’s work, not least the Gaia Theory, though at the time, and to his great annoyance, Gaia was hijacked by a motley band of Green fantasists and New Age nobodies. Though I was never one of their number, I did bend the applicability of Gaia Theory for literary purposes.

The situation of the city of Kray is desperate. These are end times. The final city on Earth, it is under attack from planet-wide deadly vegetation, mutated viruses and germs known generally as the pestilence, and by pollution leading to, amongst many effects, feminisation of male animals and human beings.

In a nutshell, I changed Gaia Theory from science – which it undoubtedly is, since it is generally accepted that it has made accurate predictions, amongst other tests of the Scientific Method – to literary metaphor. In those final scenes when the planet seems to be dashing the last dregs of humanity against the rocks of its own city I expressed the “anger” of the Earth against human beings. That storm seems intended to wipe them off the face of the planet, leaving only the plants, animals and fungi of the penultimate chapter, which, in a literary and real spring, begin recolonising what once was human territory.

Perhaps it is going too far to say I would change that aspect of the book, since those final metaphoric scenes do give the finale their power. But I do need to state that Gaia Theory is not conscious, nor is it teleological. If we describe it as Earth Systems Science (which Gaiaphobes are wont to do) then we see what it really is: a collection of positive and negative feedback loops which, taken as a whole, allow the Earth to regulate its own environment. That regulation is automatic and non-conscious – a process of maths and science.

In fact, in a way I did make this point myself a decade or so later in Urbis Morpheos. In that novel I posited a number of ways conscious characters could interact with the systems of Earth Systems Science. Urbis Morpheos also is about the way human beings perceive and interact with the environment, but, set a million years hence, that includes the manufactured environment, which in my future vision has grown to such an extent the natural environment is limited to havens. And I posited an equivalent: Agaiah.

We should not create an Agaiah, however. We need to understand Gaia.