A number of people have told me that Requiem of the Human Soul reminded them of the movie Avatar. So I finally got up my courage, put on the 3D glasses and went to see for myself.
I loved the special effects, and like so many others, I got caught up in the Pocahontas-style storyline. But now, what’s that all got to do with Requiem? Well, of course there’s the obvious fact that in the late 22nd century world of Requiem, everybody uses virtual reality in the same way they do in Avatar. My vision of 22nd century virtual reality is similar to James Cameron’s, but in my technology, you put on a kind of diving suit with millions of little electrodes, so when you want to move your avatar, you don’t just think about, you actually move your hand or foot and the avatar’s hand or foot moves with you. Here’s a link to the novel website that describes Requiem‘s virtual reality in more detail.
But, I think when people compare Requiem to Avatar, it’s the vision of the world-spirit, the animistic sense of connectedness that they’re talking about. Avatar offers a beautifully blended metaphor of a plugged-in universe, where technology, environment and spirituality all fuse together. I’ve published a post on the companion blog to this, Tyranny of the Prefrontal Cortex, called “Avatar: A 21st Century Aspirational Cosmology,” where I suggest that part of Avatar‘s popularity arises from it offering an easy techno solution to our modern spiritual longing.
In Requiem, though, things aren’t quite as easy. The Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist, Julius Schumacher, discovers that the human soul is interconnected through our DNA with all other life on earth. It’s a moment when science and spirituality have the potential of coming together in a way where they can infuse meaning in each other. Here’s how his protege, Brian Chang, describes it:
“You know Julius’ analogy about the soul, how it’s like an orchestra?” Brian started speaking after lots of humming and herring and clearing his throat nervously. “You know, how over five hundred million years of evolution, as life on earth began branching off into plants, reptiles, mammals, a shared harmony existed between the DNA of every living object on earth?”
“And as creatures became more diverse, the harmony between their DNA and the DNA of other creatures became more complex, but it never disappeared.” Brian’s voice was taking on more authority with every sentence. “Julius theorized that the soul is not something that can ever be tangibly identified, but it exists as a series of relationships, patterns, vibrations, between different elements of a living creature’s DNA and RNA.”
“So Julius saw the origins of the soul to be the Earth itself. The relationship between man and the Earth is integral to the existence of the soul. In fact, Julius believed this was the basis for the immortality of the soul.”
But in Requiem‘s 22nd century world, this didn’t lead to the happy harmony of Pandora. Instead, genetic engineering may have destroyed the soul, like changing the shape a musical instrument would destroy the music. The thing is, even without genetic engineering, the human race hasn’t done such a good job of exploring its connectivity with Nature. On the contrary, we’ve spent at least two thousand years pulling it apart. In the novel, Julius founds a Humanist community, where a century later, Eusebio Franklin, the novel’s hero is born. But the Humanists remain a small, isolated, group in an increasingly genetically-optimized, soulless world.
Avatar may be a lot of fun to watch, but I think part of its popularity arises from its vision of an easy techno-organic solution to our world’s problems. Sorry guys, but Requiem doesn’t offer that solution. It might, however, help you to see some of the real issues we face as we go hurtling through this century of climate change and unsustainable onslaught on our so-called natural resources… and as we pursue our intimations of immortality through genetic engineering.
In Requiem of the Human Soul, our world is ruled by the d-humans, designer humans who are healthier, better looking and smarter than us mere Primals, or unenhanced humans. The book’s set in the late 22nd century, over 150 years from now. But how do we get there from our present world?
In these extracts from the PEPS archives (not found in the novel), the novel’s hero, Eusebio, tells us how Naomi, (his d-human advocate), first told him about how the d-humans had taken over the world from the Primals.
Because he’d spent his whole life in the “time capsule” of Tuckers Corner, Eusebio knew virtually nothing about recent history. Although he was a history teacher, his topics were the indigenous groups of the world before they were conquered by the West.
But Naomi Aramovich soon brought him up to date…
“In North America, Primals are no more than 15% of the population. The majority live in inner city ghettoes, and are virtually all either black or Hispanic. They couldn’t afford the early genetic optimization technologies that began to define the d-human species. The gap quickly became unbridgeable. The same was true for the predominantly white Primal communities in the less developed parts of North America, such as the Appalachian mountains and the bayous of Mississippi, as well as other marginalized communities such as American Indians still living on their reservations.
The few other Primal societies that still existed in North America were groups that had chosen to opt out of the d-humanization of society. Most were driven by fundamentalist religious philosophies. There were various Christian sects, who had split with the mainstream of their religion when, one by one, their established Christian denominations had proclaimed that the genetic optimization of the human race was consistent with Christianity. There were the extreme right-wing survivalists and conspiracy theorists in Idaho and South Dakota who refused to participate in the d-humanization of their offspring. There were the extremists of the other side of the political spectrum, who lived off the land, maintaining environmentally-friendly communities. Then there is my own community of Humanists.”
“In China, Naomi explained, over 90% of the population was d-human. Primal communities consisted mostly of backward groups in remote rural locations, or some ghettoes in the major urban areas such as Shanghai and Beijing. In the mid-21st century, the Chinese government had been the first to institute a national program of enforced d-humanization. Western countries began to view the Chinese policy as a threat to their global political power, in much the same way that the USSR’s Sputnik space flight technologies in the twentieth century led the USA to re-think its approach to space.
China’s began to enforce the d-panel on all couples in the name of social health and welfare. It became illegal to have a baby without using the d-panel. Within a couple of generations, China had succeeded in virtually eliminating many diseases from their society. This was considered to be one of the greatest steps forward that humanity had ever made.
Later, the government began to enforce the d2 technology: each couple had to choose from a small set of “minimum standards”. So, new generations of Chinese children grew up who all shared optimal features for a particular socio-economic group – farm-workers’ offspring would be born with greater physical strength and endurance; factory workers’ children would be born with a greater capacity for patience.
As a result, the majority of China’s population are now d2-humans. The ruling and wealthiest classes in China, perhaps 10% of the population, had the resources to use d-3 genetic enhancement for their children.”
“In India, the move towards d-humanization had been much more chaotic. The initial advances were made by the elite, urban, educated classes. As the d-panel became available on a mass scale, there were efforts by the Indian Government to apply the technology to the entire population, following China’s example. However, in India’s case, the application was not so successful. As a result of corruption at the regional level, and conflicts between different villages and castes at the local level, only about 40% of India’s population succesfully used the d-panels. This led to an ever increasing gap between the living standards of the d-humans and those who were to become known as the Primals.
To make matters worse, many poor families tried to purchase the d-panels on the black market, but received pirated, faulty versions. This created a new group in Indian society of terribly deformed people, with limbs and organs frequently misshapen. These people were without a home, abandoned by both the Primals and d-humans alike, forced to wander the countryside, begging for food.
Within a couple of generations, boundary lines became increasingly firm between the d-human towns and villages, and those communities that had never gained access to the d-panel. These boundaries quickly became embedded in the social structure and caste system. The two groups began to have less and less to do with each other. If a Primal entered into a d-human area, he would most likely be lynched, and vice versa.
The d-human communities became increasingly advanced and disease-free. The wealthier groups began to utilizing d2 technology to optimize the features of their children. Meanwhile, the Primal communities stagnated. Disease became ever more rampant in the society. Education and social standards declined as the authorities allocated more of their resources to the d-humans. Corporations would only employ d-humans in their factories and offices, wanting to maintain basic health and efficiency and avoid conflict.
As the difference in living standards widened, the economic gap also widened. A d-human worker in rural India now earns about twenty times more than a Primal worker in a comparable job. As a result, Primals are unable to afford to purchase the d-panel technology for their children, even if they were to desire it.
This has led, Naomi explained to me, to the current situation where the two groups, the d-humans and the Primals, share the same country, but share nothing else. D-human Indian society is a thriving, modernized place, where healthy people pursue their work and culture efficiently and productively. There is an increasingly large elite class that’s d-3. Primal Indian society has degenerated to the point of squalor. The Primal areas of India are ridden with disease and emanate massive pollution. Their agricultural land is highly inefficient, producing about one tenth of the possible food that d-humans produce from their land. The Indian cities are divided into d-human and Primal sections. In the Primal sections, the basic infrastructure has broken down. Sewage washes through the streets; hunger is everywhere; vermin share the garbage with the impoverished beggars. Violence is endemic while basic family structures have disintegrated as a result of the hunger, disease and hopelessness of the population.
As the gap between the d-humans and the Primals widened, so did the sense of a shared humanity. At first, the Indian Government attempted to provide welfare and assistance to those who had failed to access the d-panel technology. However, within a few generations, the political will to assist the Primals evaporated. The governing classes were all d-human, and they had been voted into power by d-humans. It became increasingly expedient and ethically acceptable to regard those who had missed out on the d-panel as a different species, as the Primals, and therefore not deserving the compassion and economic investment that one reserves for ones own species.”
Asia, Africa, South America
“While India is the most extreme example of the vast gap between d-humans and Primals, the same is true of most of Asia, Africa and South America, even though significant differences exist country by country.
In Japan, for example, virtually the entire population is d-human; there are almost no Primals to be found. Singapore is perhaps the only country in the world where there’s literally not a Primal to be found – it’s rumored that those who had not participated in the Government-sponsored d-humanization campaign had been secretly sterilized by the Government.
In the rest of Asia, the situation is similar to that in India, where a massive gap has arisen between d-human and Primal societies. The d-humans consist of the elite classes and the more prosperous peasants and working classes. The Primals represent those who had never had the money or political clout to gain access to the original d1 technology, and receive an ever-diminishing share of their country’s resources. The Primal societies in each country are disease-ridden, overcrowded, violent, polluted and produced barely enough to keep their populations away from starvation.
The same situation exists in the countries of Africa and Latin America. In each country, the ruling elite is highly advanced and has access to the latest d3 technology.
A significant middle-class enjoys the benefits of d2 technology, where they can customize the features of their offpsring. Among the working-classes and peasants, the more prosperous have access to d1 technology, and are free of the vast bulk of diseases that had afflicted mankind for time immemorial.
And, in each country, a big minority of the population, lacking the financial resources and outside the circle of corruption and power, labor in their original human form, suffering from disease and hunger, outcasts in the race towards the ever-increasing development and prosperity of the d-humans, who were once their fellow human beings.”
Middle East and Europe
“The Middle East, Naomi explained to me, took a different path. During the period of d1 genetic enhancement, most of the Arab and Muslim countries had distributed the d-panels through the mosque, rather than through the Government. From the outset, however, many local imams and mullahs rejected the technology, believing it was part of a Western conspiracy to undermine their genetic make-up, and against the tenets of their faith.
So, although the ruling elites of every country adopted genetic enhancement as it became available, many regions of the Arab world remained completely human. In more recent generations, a more disturbing development occurred…
When the leaders of the Arab nations and other Muslim countries unanimously adopted GALT , along with all other members of the UN, many d-human Muslims disagreed so profoundly with the principles of this treaty that they vowed to lead an insurrection against their d-human leaders. These people, who became known as the Rejectionists, viewed the human Muslims in their countries as natural allies.
Finally, Naomi turned to Europe, where the problems were less severe than elsewhere. Fewer than 10% of the European population were Primals. As in North America, most Primals comprised inner-city racial minorities in inner cities who had failed to take advantage of the genetic enhancements offered to them by the state. In Europe, d1 technology had been made available to everyone through the pan-European national health services. D2 and d3 technologies were available to all those who could afford it, which was the majority of the population.
Europe is exceptional in one respect, Naomi explained. It is the only part of the world which continues to offer a full array of health and welfare services to the Primals. These populations are kept strictly apart from the rest of the d-humans, for public health reasons, but they’re treated relatively humanely. In Europe, the Primal question has been transformed into an economic problem: over 30% of the region’s GDP is spent on maintaining the Primals, who account for less than 10% of the population.”
Well, fresh from coming in second place in the Reader View awards, I was very excited to get the news that Requiem of the Human Soul has made it to the finals in the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards! Requiem is there along with 12 other finalists in the science fiction category, so it’s going to be a challenging final stretch.
ForeWord says the winners will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America in New York City on May 25. The finalists, they say, “are examples of independent publishing at its best.”
Wish me luck!
Here’s the link to the Reader Views awards announcement.
Congratulations to Kelly Beltz, who beat me to first place with the novel Beyond the Stars: Kataria.
The official website of Requiem of the Human Soul has a lot more going on than one of your traditional author websites. In addition to offering book excerpts, it explores in detail some of the main themes of the book, such as the long-term impact of human genetic engineering on our society, and thoughts about what the idea of “the human soul” really means.
Want to explore the website but not sure where to start? Check out the options below…
The Plot. If you want to know more about the story of Requiem of the Human Soul before reading the book for yourself, click here to find out how Eusebio gets pulled into his terrible dilemma.
The Humanists. Eusebio comes from a small community of Humanists. Founded by Dr. Julius Schumacher in the 21st century, the Humanists are a group whose members chose never to optimize their children genetically because of the possibility that they might lose their souls in the process. Click here to find out more about them.
The Characters. Requiem of the Human Soul is filled with other unforgettable characters beyond Eusebio Franklin. There’s Harry Shields – Eusebio’s merciless prosecutor – and of course Naomi Aramovich, the Primal Rights activist. There are Eusebio’s family and the people he meets on the way. Not to mention the great Dr. Julius Schumacher and the other people involved in the founding of the Humanist community. Click here to meet them all.
The Primals/d-Humans. In the 22nd century there’s not one, but two, human species. Most people are d-Humans, genetically enhanced in both mind and body. Then there are the Primals, un-enhanced humans, just like us… Click to find out more about the Primals and d-Humans.
The Soul. It’s called Requiem of the Human Soul, but what soul are we actually talking about? An immortal soul that goes to heaven? Or something completely different? Click here to investigate.
The Prefrontal Cortex. What’s a part of the brain doing in a website about a novel set in the late 22nd century? Well, Dr. Julius Schumacher had a theory about how the dominance of the prefrontal cortex is a major factor in world history (as well as our future history). Click here to see what he’s talking about.
The Future Timeline. How did we ever get from here to Eusebio’s world of the late 22nd century? The Future Timeline will show you the path we’re on…
Future Articles. It all seemed so reasonable at the time… Check out the future magazine and newspaper articles to see how the different steps from here to the future all seemed so perfectly normal when they occurred.