From the Author
By John Schettler
Oddly enough, the Dharman Series Novels began with a computer game I createdon a Commodore 64, and later an Amiga 1000 in the late 1980s! Wild Zonebegan as a text based game about a life form colony administered bystrange robots. A few years later I began to write a story based on thecreatures and robots, and set it in a distant Earth Colony outpost on aplanet called "Dharma VI."
After completing the fourth draft Isubmitted the book to a traditional publishing house in 1990, along with the first sequel, Mother Heart. Both novels eventually passed first and second reads there, and I realized that I was now waiting for that last final review by a senior editor with the authority to "buy." Sadly, itnever came, and I decided to move the books elsewhere, committing thesin of "simultaneous submission."
Amazon changed all that! Itwas a truly empowering event for a creative artist to be able to placetheir work before a reading audience without someone else's permission,and it promised to upset the long entrenched control wielded by the gate keeping publishers of the world. In my mind digital publishing is assignificant event as the development of the Gutenberg press, which wasrecently named the greatest invention of the last millennium. Now anyperson can have the means of artistic expression and wide distributionby combining digital publication and the Internet. After putting outWild Zone using the new "Print on Demand" technology, I promised myselfthat I would finally revisit the Dharman Series novels and bring themout in digital eBook formats.
About the Dharman Series Novels
When I first saw the movie "Starship Troopers" a few years ago I was aghastat some similarities to part one of this story. I never read Heinline'snovel when I was younger, and my story was finished long before themovie ever came out. Perhaps there is something about the nature of"bugs" that is so alien to us that they make natural adversaries. WhileHeinline's novel never entered my mind, part one of "Wild Zone" wasperhaps more influenced by a short story I read in Grammar Schoolentitled "Leningen vs The Ants." It depicted the struggle of a stubbornplantation owner against a marauding horde of Army Ants in Brazil. "Wild Zone," too, is a story about "bugs." While this seems to sum up theessence of the plot antagonist in part one, the mystery that emerges in the "Asect Marauders" of Dharma VI is only the first layer of the onion you have peeled in the long trilogy that is now before you.
Asthe story continues in Book II: Mother Heart, I share some thoughtsabout how intelligence blooms into consciousness through the complexityof various forms and structures nature is always experimenting with. The Dharman Series tinkers with the emergence of consciousness in the"artificial" intelligence of computers, and again on the micro-scale ofbiology where collective colonies of cooperating organisms can becomesomething much greater than the sum of their individual parts. Onenotion is primary to the story: that if an environment can produce aconscious organism it must therefore be intelligent itself--anintelligent relationship that gives rise to conscious thought as anatural outgrowth of its process. But the human mind has long beenplagued by a peculiar warble in the rhythm of its conscious thought--the notion of a "self."
In many places in this story you willperceive the strange distinction between human self-consciousness, andthe type of intelligence that might arise from an alien environmentwhere "self" never came to be. Yet, even if not driven by the pettydistractions that possess human self-consciousness, it would seem thatany alien intelligence would have its own peculiar agenda for ensuringthe survival and propagation of its species.
Human beings havebeen pushing the world around for centuries now. They have invaded andexploited virtually every environment in the biosphere of earth, hounded hundreds of species into extinction, and now press on to begintinkering with the warp and woof of life itself as the science ofgenetics and bio-engineering dawns upon us in the 21st century. Thiseffort has brought us into inevitable conflict with all the othermicro-organisms of the earth, the only predators that still remain forus on this planet. Yet, for all our arrogance and self-serving industry, humans are really amateurs at genetic manipulation, even when comparedwith something as simple as a virus. Microbes, with their mindlessenergy and robust replication, are the real masters of geneticengineering on earth today. We are but pretenders in the game, and often fool ourselves into thinking that we have bested our microbial enemiesbecause we have been able to extend our average life span, in some parts of the globe, by an average of twenty years.
How long will weprevail? Will the machinery of our science continue to keep just one,all important step ahead of our viral foes, or will something catch upwith us one day--something as deviously intelligent as we are, andperhaps as self-serving and heedless of how it impacts other life formsto further its goals?
So this is a story about "bugs," though the real enemy that emerges from the simple colonial holding of Dharma VIhas far more in store for us than any insect could ever hope to threaten us with. The book asks a question about how an alien intelligence might perceive us, and what it might imagine as a defense, or solution, tothe problem posed by the voracious appetite humans seem to have in every environment they invade.
Book one of the trilogy opens thisconflict in the stark opposition of the "Safe Zone" and the "Wild Zone." Humans brand their habitats into all alien environments. Everythingoutside our carefully controlled living space is deemed the "Wild Zone," but, as we will see, we also carry the Wild Zone within us, in the same desires and emotions that drive our behaviors in the outer world. These desires have led us to capture, kill, eat and wear virtually everything we have encountered in our brief history on this planet, and we havenot even spared our own kind in this.
In spite of our greataccomplishments in conquering environments and other life forms, ourhistory is marred with the awful treachery of our own species turninginward on itself, with greed, avarice, war and an almost reflexive urgeto control our world, along with everything and everyone in it. RobertBurton said it well in his Anatomy of Melancholy: "The greatest enemy to man is man, who, by the devil's instigation, is a wolf, a devil tohimself and others...Man is wolf to man."
There is an old Irishquip about a man who enters a pub and finds himself in the midst of aroiling bar fight. He immediately asks: "Is this a private fight, or can anybody get in on it?" Indeed, we have seemed all too eager to take onthe world throughout our history. The notion of "Manifest Destiny" thatdrove us from one coastline to another a few centuries back in the great new world of America, is still alive and well today. One day, perhapsnot too far distant, our destiny will become entangled with somethingelse. We may stumble upon it without even knowing it, and think to dealwith it as heedlessly as we would squash an ant that dared to invade our kitchen. But one day, something will be thinking back at us with equalgenius and venom. This is a story about that day: the time when wefinally meet up with something as serious about furthering its own aimsin the universe as we seem to be. Who will win out? Who should prevail?
Visit the world of the Dharman trilogy and decide for yourself.
Devil's Garden - Coming soon!