If you've read Brand Loyalty, this may give you some sense of deja vu!
Nothing special. (A trip into the exciting universe we call "home")
CHAPTER ONE: EXISTENCE IS USELESS.
"Existence is useless" yelled Ed, as he hit the accelerator. Now, you think you know that space nomads are nothing to write home about, but this story may just change your mind big time. After all, it's a large place, space; plenty of room for travelling and most of it the kind that doesn't come with a return ticket. Okay you wise ass; it's Time to think of the impossible. To expand your mind. To experience something out of the ordinary now that "Once Upon a Time" isn't a sensible way to start a story any more.
If you asked Ed and his ill-assorted band, gang, compatriots, partners in crime and buddies - hey, you can't specify these things so early on in the journey can you? Anyway, if you asked Ed and the guys, they wouldn't even think to call themselves space nomads. They were way cooler than that (hey, we're all way cooler than that in our own minds, right?) For Ed and his cohorts, the label of choice was SPACE NIHILISTS - yeah, right, like that, in Caps of course! SPACE NIHILISTS - though there was a running joke through the galaxies that they were covering. Ed and the boyz were just a splinter group of a much wider yet much less dramatic grouping : Rusty Travellers. According to them that know. Who are they? Well that's what you're gonna find out if you keep on asking questions. You gotta realise that they ask the questions and you provide the answers. It's always been that way and it's always gonna be that way. Nobody expects the…
Now there was a time when that would have been called a digression. A figure of speech; a literary device to reel you in. Now it's just bad writing. Or cheap suspense? So let's get back to the plot - if we can find one in all this mountain of nothing specialness through which we, like Ed, are careering wildly out of control.
It was true that Ed was piloting - not very skilfully - a rust bucket of a ship which couldn't truly be said to belong to him. And that was a sign of being a rusty traveller. Gotta admit that much. But being a Rusty Traveller was more of a lifestyle choice than that. Like the Romantics in the good old nineteenth century, no one really wanted to be known as a Rusty, even the one's who were good at it. And Ed was too busy being a bad nihilist to be a bad rusty as well. Not enough spacetime in the day, so to speak.
Rusty travellers had a bit of a bad reputation. That don't surprise you I'm sure. They shook things up too much. Daubed slogans on otherwise pristine ships and shops; jumped from one empty vessel to another as the whim took them, using the fuel, food, clothing and spacetime of more honest, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens of the universe. But man, that's nothing compared to a SPACE NIHILIST. You gotta believe it. They weren't even in the same galaxy.
Ed and the boyz. And that included the Gem, who was pretty sure she was a girl, and Tootle who made a big show of being gender non-specific (which ain't against the rules and don't you let no personality tax inspector tell you different!) Well, Ed and the boyz, saw themselves more as a small, but crack troop of dedicated.. well, dedicated believers that there wasn't any point in believing and if so then you might as well just give it up and have a damned good party till your number came up. The rest was nothing special. Floating round alternative realities with multiple personalities might sound exciting to you twentieth century throwbacks, but ain't nothing this side of the millennium let me tell you.
Right at this co-ordinate though, things seemed pretty lean - and the band was really on the run. To top it all they had computer problems. Or, to put it more logically, the computer had problems. Converting a computer to nihilism had seemed like a good idea at the time, but the consequences both past and future were becoming momentous. Not to put too fine a point on it - no one had a clue where they were.
Ed scratched his head. Looked at his wrist, where his spacetime piece would have been - was - had been - or might be one day - before it broke. See, Ed could never really get to grips with spacetime. Probably one of his main reasons for becoming a SPACE NIHILIST. Even alternative realities lose their charm when you've got no handle on your spacetime continuum.
Hungry. Time to eat. That was about the level of Ed's multi-level reasoning. Hey - what's so strange with that? He'd beat the pants off you at your sad computer games bud, but in the brain department, Ed was definitely a 486 in a Pentium world.
"Where we going Ed?"
That was Tootle. Hungry too. Hungry for leadership - something to fill his/ her / its belly and spiritual yearnings in a non-threatening, non-judgemental, gender non-specific way. Tootle took some getting used to. Don’t we all, first time round?
Ed shrugged his shoulders.
"Buggered if I know Tootle. Hungry?"
This was a pretty comprehensive conversation for Ed and Tootle. It wasn't that they didn't need to communicate to each other in words, it was just that they weren't very good at it. Gem did all that. Talking and stuff. Well, that's girls. Non-rational but talk you into the middle of a crisis any time you like.
Ed and Tootle were coming back for round two.
A pause. Tootle thinking, or just lost the plot again?
Luckily for us all, at this moment Gem - who had the psychic powers that the Big Banger blessed her gender with in days of yore, if you believe in all that crap - and remember WE BELIEVE IN NOTHING - Gem, walked onto the bridge, bearing a tray of food.
It doesn't matter what kind of food to you and me - we don't gotta eat it. And if Ed and Tootle had any choice they probably wouldn't either. But there you are, in a universe of choice, necessity has a mean old way of cutting through on the inside lane and pushing all other options out of the running.
"What's it?" (Tootle)
"Nothing special." (Gem)
"Thanks. It took me hours to make it." (Gem)
Now we won't let Gem in on the secret that Ed didn't mean good as in "It's good." Why does she need to know that? But you and me, we gotta know that he really meant "good that it's nothing special." Because Ed understood that if the whole caboodle of existence was useless, it was pretty out of it to enjoy your food. He had trouble even thinking that "eat to live" was a nihilistic possibility, never mind "live to eat."
See that's where historically people have got nihilists all wrong. They think that cause you think nothing means anything, you're just gonna have a wild time, living it up in hedonism heaven or somewhere equally pointless. But that's not it pal. Can't be. If nothing means anything then nothing means anything. Period. And existence is useless. The question isn't so much "So why not have a good time?" as "How can you have a good time?" How can you even have a time? Or a spacetime? Or anything?
And a full belly doesn't make such questions any easier to answer, or even to think about. Especially when you're hurtling through space completely out of control. Fractally speaking of course, it's the universal conundrum - and usefullness may well just be a philosophical position anyway - a luxury for those whose lives are unburdened for them by their acquiescence to ever-increasing taxes, and the generations yet to come, and never having to worry about who "they" are because you've got a sneaking suspicion that you're one of them anyway.
Now these aren't really Ed's thoughts - I don't think. But then you never can tell what another person's thinking, so he and Tootle might have as good a handle on this as you and me. Or not.
The bottom line is, it's lonely being a nomad. And being a NIHILIST is an almost untenable position - relatively speaking. Space is large and the maps are confusing, even with sophisticated equipment. The most careful calculation is unlikely to bring you back to the spacetime where you last saw your hat, or dog, or family - and a momentary lapse of attention could send you off on a path to a completely different reality from the one you planned. And you gotta realise that to Ed, the words planning and attention were anathama. Like spacetime and washing his hair - he just couldn’t do them.
Find out more about the theory, process and meanings - an exercise in creating a brain in a virtual vat.