Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sic transit gloria mundi

In Eleanor Arnason's To the Resurrection Station (1986), Belinda Hernshaw and two others from a planet many light years away visit Earth, which they find is now ruled by giant intelligent rats bred by a scientist to survive ecological catastrophe and nuclear holocaust. The rats worship the gods Darwin and Mendel (bizarre human-shaped constructions of wicker on wheels, wearing feather crowns , necklaces made of plastic, glass beads, and animal teeth, and each with an enormous phallus stuck out in front of it). And to their gods they chant this prayer (as they prepare to kill a one of their own for the crime of having paws that are neither long nor nimble:

Darwin, bless us,
Mendel too.
Make our breeding Always true.

Make our children
Long of hand,
Nimble fingered,
Strong to stand.

Wise of wit,
With tongues to praise
Darwin, Mendel
All their days.

After a close encounter with the city government officials (all rats, of course) at Columbia Circle, Belinda & company escape in a canoe & paddle out into New York Harbor. There,

Belinda saw the huge ruins at Manhattan's tip. That was Wall Street, she realized--those bare building frames, those broken facades. Huge flocks of birds circled above them.

Wall Street! Somewhere in that jumble was Trinity Church, the Treasury Building, and the New York Stock Exchange. America, her professors had told her, was the only true and authentic puritan country. It had been built on two supports-- religion and greed. In those shadowy ruins, the leaders of America had worshipped God, Truth, the General Good, and Money. Now, like the temples of the Maya-- like Uxmal, Tikal, and Chichen Itza-- the holy places of American Capitalism had all fallen down. Trees grew from the seats of the stockbrokers. The birds flying overhead cried, "kree-kree-kree." Belinda felt a terrible sadness.

You must bear in mind, of course, that Belinda's professors never lived on Earth and were the descendants of space colonists, and Belinda seems to be cursed with the gift of imposing a null-probability field, everywhere she goes...

Yum. It's wild, funny stuff.

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