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Spotlighting an ERB fan and pastiche writer from Finland
LOVE AND PEACE ON POLODA
By TIMO MANTERE
I live alone in the old family mansion. Many old, big wooden houses have all sorts of noises at night, due to wind and temperature changes. These common noises don't usually bother me. They hardly ever disturb my sleep.
This night, however, was different. At about four o'clock in the morning, I woke up to a noise I'd never heard before within these ancient walls. It was a strangely regular knocking that seemed to be coming from the attic. I rose from bed and put my night-dress on.
Following the sound, I ascended the stairs to a small room in the attic where I had, many years ago, stored all the personal belongings of my late father.
Even though I'm not too superstitious, this sound sent ghost stories wandering around my mind. It was late at night in the old house, and the unnatural sound came from the place where my late father liked to spend most of his free time.
I felt cold sweat on my brow. Shivers went down my spine. I wanted to retreat back down the stairs and search the room by daylight in the morning. But I forced common sense to win: Even if it was my late father haunting there, I knew he would never hurt me.
So I opened the door and pushed my hand in, groping for the light-switch. Every moment I was expecting something awful in the dark to grab my hand. I hadn't visited that room in nearly four years, and I was afraid that the light-bulb might be broken. It wasn't. After I got the lights on, I dared to take a look in the room.
What I saw made me want to rush back out right away. An old mechanical typewriter on the corner table was typing by itself. Paper got up by itself, like a ghost was writing with the machine. Through deep horror, I got my mind settled. That's when I remembered my father claiming that this typewriter writes stories by itself. As a child I had believed him, but when I became an adult, I knew that he was kidding me, like fathers always kid their children.
I knew this typewriter was father's most dearest treasure. It had once belonged to a pulp writer named Edgar Rice Burroughs. My father had managed to buy it at some auction.
My father must have been the biggest Edgar Rice Burroughs fan in the world. He had all the first editions of his books -- shelves full of them, and a lot of other stuff about the writer, too. I had read only couple of those novels, since no boy likes the things his parents fanatically try to feed him.
As my peace of mind slowly returned, my attention fell to the typewriter. I saw father's old, yellowed typing paper rise from the moldy carton on the table and place itself into the typewriter. I walked toward it, and saw that it was writing some story in English.
I remembered how my father used to claim that this typewriter writes its own stories, and how father also claimed that this very same typewriter used to write stories by itself for the famous Edgar Rice Burroughs, who then released them under his own name.
I knew I couldn't get any more sleep that night after this strange phenomenon, so I went through the papers that the machine had written. They were in backwards order, and I was able to start reading them from the beginning, by taking the undermost one.
The story was told by some Earth-man named Tangor, and was quite unbelievable. This Tangor and some other earthlings had supposedly died and were transported into another solar system, about 450,000 light-years from Earth.
Anyway, I tell the story here faithfully to how it was written. I only corrected some strange expressions and words, which I considered to be typing mistakes. ~ TM
Frank J. Brueckel Maps of Poloda
are on display at
It has been a long time since I last wrote about my life on the war-filled planet of Poloda. I still can't tell you how I had managed to write my stories across the 450,000 light-years separating Poloda and Earth. But I believe you will find the explanation, after Earth science steps a little bit ahead, and the scientists there give up the barriers in their minds that make them think so many totally natural things are impossible and unnatural.
I believe Poloda science is ahead in many matters, but unfortunately Poloda science couldn't stop what seemed to be an everlasting war.
With my earlier contacts, I wrote how I came to Poloda, joined the Unisian air-fleet and how I went on a secret mission to Ergos, the capital of Kapara, our enemy. Then I told of my missions to Poloda's neighbour planets; how my trip to Tonos was filled with adventures. I brought back one small ray projector, but it didn't help us Unisians to end the long-lasting war.
Then I wrote of how I traveled to two more planets in the Omos system. My trips to Antos and Katos were just as adventure-filled, but I returned to Poloda empty-handed. I found no escape for Unisians to those planets, either.
When I came to Poloda from Earth, I had only one scientific discovery to tell them that they hadn't discovered for themselves. That was Einstein's theory of relativity, E=MC2. After I returned from Tonos, I remembered to mention that theory to the commissioner of war. I told him how back on my old world, scientists had believed that based on that formula they can build The Bomb -- the bomb that will end all the wars.
Unisian scientists were excited about this theory, and just after I returned from Katos, I heard that they had managed to build such a bomb. However, it was discovered that this bomb would not only totally destroy the Kapars, but it would also harm the atmosphere of Poloda and other Omosian planets, the circular atmosphere of which connects all eleven planets.
The scientists' findings left Janhai no other choice than to rule this new bomb to be too dangerous and immoral to use against Kapars. Therefore the war continued, and Unis continued to lose an average of a million men per year.
However, the theory I brought -- called Tangor's Theory of Relativity on Poloda -- allowed scientists to build new power plants that change hydrogen into helium. These new power plants mean that we Unisian now have an enormous amount of energy to use, and it eased many things in life. But the war continued.
In my earlier writings I told how I and my love, little Harkas Yamoda, were wed after I returned from Tonos. I may inform you that since then we have had happy family news five times: two daughters and three sons.
Sadly, the heavy war has cost the life of all three of our sons. After the last one died, I swore I will never have more children. I couldn't bear the pain like born Unisians. I also couldn't bear the silent suffering of my wife Yamoda.
I knew I could have escaped with my family to live among the friendly people on Tonos, but I couldn't abandon my adopted homeland in a time of war. That would have been treason, and a cowardly act.
Things on Poloda seemed to follow the same path endlessly until the recent happenings.
The story I am now about to begin is the story I put together from my own experiences and interviews I conducted with the five other earthlings that one day appeared on Poloda, in the surface garden above the underground city of Orvis.
I didn't understand many things these people told me about their life on Earth. They had to explain much, and I still don't understand it all. Earth sure has changed quite a bit since I left.
1. USE THE BOMB
"Use the bomb!" "Use The Bomb!!" "USE THE BOMB!!!" shouts filled the air of the underground city of Orvis. It was another usual day, peace demonstrators marched in the streets, yelling their slogan "Use the bomb." They are trying to force Janhai to use the atom bomb against Kapars.
It was an ordinary day for me. I work for the street police, keeping an eye on peace activists. I've worked as a street cop for many years now.
After I returned from my inter-planetary travels, I worked as a secret agent and made some dangerous rescue missions into Kapara. After that, I returned to the air-force of Unis and flew hundreds of air battles over Orvis and bombing flights into Kapara.
I rose in the ranks, and became general of the Unis military forces. I was almost elected Commissioner of War. But some Unisians didn't want an otherworlder to be elected into such a high place. I lost the election.
I kept going on secret missions for some while, until my superiors thought that I was too old for dangerous secret missions or inter-planetary research-traveling. I was given a peaceful retirement post with the street police.
I had lived several years in peace and love with my wife Yamoda in our underground city. The buildings of Orvis were no longer lifted to the surface between air battles. Bombing up on the surface didn't much bother us. I spent my days in the streets as a policeman, and my nights with my wife Yamoda. Life was easy and stable indeed.
This day seemed to be the same as usual. Peace protesters marched together with nature activists, both demanding that Janhai use the atom bomb against Kapara. The latter group said that Kapar bombing ruined our beautiful nature and kept people underground. They would rather take some radioactivity instead. Most of the protesters were women, mothers and grandmothers. Most men were at war.
They'd made headway in their cause, too. The latest rumour from behind the curtain said that the last time the Unisian ruling body Janhai voted, it was only 4-3 against dropping atom bombs into Kapara.
As I said, the day seemed ordinary. I walked the streets and kept an eye on peace demonstrators, until I saw familiar face among their number. Strange feelings and astonishment went through my body, because this peace protester was my own wife, Yamoda. She held a banner that said "USE THE BOMB!"
I could hardly believe that my Yamoda was part of that rabble. My wife, who silently suffered the death of her 13 brothers; my love, whose grief knew no bounds at the death of our three sons; my wife, the perfect law-abiding citizen. How could she now march with the peace demonstrators, and demand that Unis use the atom bomb?
I walked to my wife in wonderment. I took her banner and threw it away. I started to drag her out of the crowd. I didn't want to speak with her then, surrounded by the fanatic peace makers.
When we got a little further, my mind was still not totally re-organized from the shock. I didn't know what to say or where to start, so I simply asked, "For god's sake, what are you doing among these peace demonstrators?"
My wife answered by hugging me and starting to cry against my shoulder. "I have had enough," she said. "I can't take this any more. And I wanna have more children."
I stood silently. What could I possibly say? I guess even the most patriotic, law-abiding citizen can crack under the eternal pressure. I just stood there, holding my wife. I had no words. Thankfully, I didn't need to come up with any before we were interrupted.
There was a tap on my shoulder. It was another police officer. I was needed at police headquarters immediately.
So I went with the policeman, leaving my wife there in the street. Before I left, I begged her to go home. I don't know if she did.
While we drove toward headquarters in the police vehicle, I asked the officer what the problem was. He answered that apparently five naked people had appeared in the garden of Orvis, up on the surface. At first, these people were thought to be those poor regressed human beings of Punos. They were a mess, and didn't understand our language. They also seemed a little dotty.
They were taken in for questioning, but no one could communicate with them. Finally, some officer understood a few of the words they used: "Earth" and "Sun" being among the words I had used in the articles I wrote about my home planet for the Unisian encyclopedia. The police chief thought these people might have come from Earth, the same way I did so many years ago.
I was excited to hear this, since it was my knowledge that so far, only one other Earth man had been resurrected here on Poloda besides me.
At headquarters, the chief led me to the interrogation room, where the five strange-looking people were held. These people did indeed looked a bit like those regressed people of Punos. I started to ask questions in english.
And they answered me in that language.
2. FROM WOODSTOCK TO POLODA
Jake, Jimmy, and Joe were friends. They lived the wild life in the sixties. They'd managed to avoid Vietnam so far, they told me. Whatever that meant. Now these three friends and Jake's girlfriend, Janis, were on their way to something called "Woodstock." They'd heard about the big festival. A great party was promised. These four were something people called "hippies." Traveling in Joe's very old car, with Jake driving, they all "smoked grass" and sang songs to raise the feeling up.
At the festival they swilled booze and smoked pots. For some reason, Joe hit on a girl named Jane, but wasn't arrested for the assault. Jane was an innocent home girl, who had never used drugs or had sex, or presumably smoked cookware, but I guess she still had some rebellion in her mind, since something made her to come to these festivals.
These, then, were the five J's: Jake, Jimmy, Joe, Janis and Jane. What they were doing on Poloda was anybody's guess. But here they were.
As I interogated them that day at headquarters, it ocurred to me that all five were still naked. I offered them clothing, but they refused.
"Put those drab, gray establishment uniforms on our backs?" said Jake. "Why don't you just lock us up and throw away the key, man?"
It was just as well. Nude, I could tell the boys from the girls. The three men all had long, curly hair -- though scraggly beards did sprout from their chins, which helped to identify their gender. Jake and Joe were about middle-sized, maybe a little thinner than average young males. They were about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 155 pounds. Too scrawny to do any good at the front. Jake had tiny eyeglasses, with wire rims, but I don't know how he saw anything through them because they were coal black. And where he found them after being transported to Poloda, I never did find out. Jimmy had blue eyes, with red streaks through the whites. He was a bit bigger than his friends, about 6'1, with a heavily built body of about 190 pounds. But he wouldn't do the Army any good either, since he wobbled crazily -- presumably from smoking too many lawn clippings. Janis had long brown hair, tied back with a headband, and gray eyes. She was about 5 feet 5 inches tall, and just fine looking, if a little grubby. I noticed she didn't shave her armpits, which was a little disgusting. Especially since it was a warm day. Jane wore flowers in her hair. I guess she thought it was fashionable.
The festivals went fine for these five J's. But at some point, the J-gang didn't get enough giggles from the booze and grass, so they started to take the LSD that Jimmy always brought with him. That was a powerful drug, I gathered, and it got them even higher than smoking lawn clippings. When some musician named Jimi Hendrix played, Joe managed to get Jane to taste LSD also. Then all five J's were high and happy.
I guess at some point they all fell asleep and saw beautiful narcotic dreams. Or maybe they just lost their consciousness.
Jake woke up first. He looked around, and saw that he was in an open space, with green plants everywhere -- no people, other than the other four J's. They all were naked like Jake himself. Well, the nakedness didn't surprise Jake too much. They had had naked mud-bathing before at the festivals, but now there was no mud. And all their bodies were clean.
"Did we have group sex again?" Jake asked his sleeping friends.
Jake's head started to get a little clearer. After a while, he thought: "God damn, we all fell asleep for so long that the festival ended and all the other people went home."
The other J's started to wake. They looked around then, I guess they had about the same thoughts as Jake had earlier. Jake told them his theory about oversleeping. Jimmy answered: "Fuck it. No one sleeps that long. We're still on the LSD trip, and imagined that there are no other people."
Jake's mind started to settle even more. "Yes, that must be the explanation," he reasoned. "We're simply still in the LSD trip. Yes, that's it."
They might have had this opinion a little longer, until six uniformed men with pistols in their hands appeared. Jimmy saw them first. He said: "Cops! God damn it, boys! Say hello to Vietnam."
Those officers arrested them, and spoke in an unintelligible language. They were taken to some sort of elevator, descending underground.
They were taken to a room they considered a prison cell. More police officers appeared, mumbling in the same strange language. Finally some really old, senile man came in and tried to speak with them in some prehistoric English.
I'm old, and may be out of practice speaking english. But senile? Yamoda doesn't think so. I suspect that my daughters think I am, sometimes. But they'd never say so to my face.
"Never trust anyone over 30," Jake said to his chums.
I got answers which I didn't understand. I had no idea what Woodstock, rock, hippies or LSD were. So, they had a lot of explaining to do. I still don't know if I understood it all right. Anyway, these people with long curled hairs and strange glass-like looks in their eyes were not how I remembered Earth people.
3. HIPPIES IN POLODA
These five people were ordered into my care-taking. They were placed into an apartment building close to mine. It was my job to teach them some Unisian language and habits. I'd also study them, and recommend whether to Janhai whether these five strangers should be destroyed or not.
I spent the next couple days with them. I was interested in news of Earth. I hadn't heard anything about my home planet for a long time. I knew that the war in which I died was won, but now these newcomers spoke of another war in some place called Vietnam.
"War!" spat Janis.
"Huh!" added Jane.
"What is it good for?" asked Jimmy.
These five people seemed to be some kind of pacifists and war antagonists. I wondered if they could be any use for us in Unis.
I understood that grass and LSD are some sort of drugs. I never liked drug users back on Earth, but I remembered Aldous Huxley's "Brave new World." Maybe Earth was getting like he prophesied, since all these five use drugs and it was their testimony that all normal people on Earth do the same.
"It's a cool trip, man," Jake informed me.
So, maybe it is natural on Earth nowadays. Maybe they had so much pressure they can't get along without "mama's little helper," as Jane called it.
"Lucy in the sky, old dude," added Janis.
"The Beatles are far out," laughed Jimmy.
But what Lucy was doing up there, or why Jane's mother needed help in the first place, I didn't have the foggiest clue. I looked around for insects in the office, but knew the place was perfectly sanitary.
And besides. We have even more pressure and we don't need nor use drugs in Unis.
I was interested in the atom bomb. Had they used it since those two times in the second world war? They said no. Obviously, it hadn't ended all wars as we'd been told it would. Those people on Earth had something called "Cold War" now. I figured Vietnam must be in the Antarctic.
I had to ask if they know any scientific findings, that might be helpful for us. Jimmy answered that he knew how to fabricate LSD. And Jake knew how to build an "electric guitar." I didn't think those inventions would be of any use to us.
Meanwhile, I had serious conversations with my wife. I got her finally to promise that she wouldn't march with the peace demonstrators again. We had long, loud and emotional conversations, with heavy arguments. However, I reserve the right to keep some private family things private. I don't think that an author has any responsibility to reveal all his private things to the whole Universe.
Finally, after six weeks, Janhai took the case of these five strangers. I made the proposition that these five earthlings should be set free. I thought that they would be no threat to us and they might still prove useful. Earth science had obviously advanced a lot since we last had any Earth people here on Poloda. I mentioned the "electric guitar," which sounded sinister enough. But maybe my real motive was, that these five earthlings were my compatriots from America.
So, these five "hippies" were set free into our society, after Janhai ruled so.
It didn't take too long to find out that these people didn't want to melt into our society. They didn't like to use our clothes, so they made their own. They were a strange looking group, with their long, curled hairs, things hanging from their necks and black, grubby clothes. The girls had some sort of dress with a long skirt, and the boys' clothes didn't differ much from those of the girls. During conversation, I wished they were naked again, so I could keep their names straight.
Obviously, they got lot of attention everywhere they went in Orvis.
Yamoda and I have two daughters. They're both young, beautiful Unisian maidens. Both are still unmarried, but always surrounded by horny young boys. The eldest daughter, Harkas Monica, was 19 at the time of these happenings. The younger one, Harkas Angela, was 17 at that time. Both were beautiful, thin girls with blue eyes and long, brown long hair. They were given my wife's name Harkas, because I don't have a name and she no longer had any brothers.
4. WHERE'S THE MAIDEN DRESS?
My daughters were excited that more people from their father's home planet had arrived on Poloda. Naturally, they wanted to get to know these people and therefore learn more about the Earth, where their ancestors lived, and its people.
I couldn't forbid it, even though I thought that these hippies were not a good example of Earth people. And, as a father, I didn't think they were good company for daughters, with their strange looks and drug habits. But on Earth and Poloda one thing is constant: No father can control what his daughters do, or whom they associate with. I was thankful that there are no drugs on Poloda for them to use. I was too optimistic, of course.
Apparently, my daughters "hanged" with these guys every evening. They went to the bars and pubs. They drank noticeable amounts of alcohol. We do use alcohol on Poloda, but always a moderate amount. And, as I said, these hippies got attention everywhere they went. Now, my daughters were getting that attention, too.
Apparently my younger daughter, Angela, got a crush on Jimmy. She spent lot of time with him, more and more all the time. Also, a lot of other Unisian youth were interested in these hippies and wanted to know about them and their life-style.
"He's so cool and cute," Angela told me.
"Cool?" I asked. "Perhaps the underground environmental controls need adjusting."
"Dad! You're so not with it. Jimmy's bright, and intelligent, and has such a great ideology and values."
Well, I can't understand why she likes him, if he's so cold. I seriously doubt that intelligent part. And what values, I really didn't know. Cute as my ass.
"How many of you hang up with these hippies?" I asked.
"Hang out, dad," she replied, exasperated at my terminology. "Well, there's Monica and me, Jimmy, Jake, Joe, Janis, Jane and Morga Shanda, and then there's people that come and go."
"Morga Shanda?" I asked, because the name sounded familiar.
Angela answered, "Yes, she's Joe's girlfriend"
I asked, "But wasn't Jane and Joe a pair?"
"They split up a long time ago," Angela answered. "Jane is so dull, but they let her hang out with us."
"Jane's OK," interrupted Monica. Obviously, Monica had became a good friend with Jane.
I only later learned that Morga Shanda was the niece of late Morga Sagra -- the Unisian traitor with whom I first traveled to Ergos, the capital of Kapara.
We continued to talk some more, but I couldn't get anything important out of them. They avoided my questions when I tried to ask what exactly they did in the evenings.
So I can't tell you what these hippies and my daughters did together or what talked about, since I just don't know. But I really would have liked to know.
I guess I was not too perspicacious. I went to work as street cop every day. At first I didn't notice any change at home, until one day my younger daughter was wearing the same clothes and necklaces as those hippies did. She had flowers in her hair. Gone was the red dress common to all unmarried maidens in Poloda.
My wife and I were shocked, of course. Loud voices were used, rounding threats were proposed. Again I want to reserve myself the right to keep private family talks private. I'll just say that a lot of arguments were had.
Anyway, if I thought that would prevent my daughter from going out with these hippies, I was dead wrong. My concerns were ever more increased as I heard that these hippies practiced unmarried sex out in the open, on the garden in surface. I also heard from the other cops, that these hippies had fabricated synthetic drugs here in Poloda. The new drug was called DSL, don't ask me why.
Anyway, hippie ideology spread and every day I saw more and more them, while patrolling in the streets. More and more born Unisian youth joined them. They wore grubby clothes, peace-signs hung from their necks and they smoke some sweet smelling cigarettes. I later heard that they were made of some Polodian plant. We never had any smoking habits here before.
As more and more Unisian young men joined the hippies, more and more refused the military service and going to war against Kapara. These war-resisters started to bring worry among the common citizens. If we don't fight, Kapara will destroy us, they said.
Janhai ruled that everyone who refuses army-service and all those who use drugs will be banished to the Island of Despair, the prison island at the southern tip of Unis.
My daughters had left home a long time ago, as just about all the young children of our neighbours and friends. They had all joined the hippies. I barely saw my daughters any more, only accidentally in the streets, while patrolling. My younger daughter, Angela, didn't speak to me any more. Her boyfriend Jimmy was sent to the Island of Despair because of drug use, and she blamed me. I was thankful that my daughters weren't caught and sent to the prison islands, because I had heard that women aren't treated very nicely there.
The news told that the Kapar army had snatched hundreds of prisoners from the Island of Despair. No one knew why -- probably in order to find some traitor, that would reveal some of our important secrets. But no such prisoner were held there, that could reveal anything.
But soon these islands were totally filled with people. Janhai had no place to put all the law-breakers. It had reached the point that Janhai had to rule that law-breakers must be either destroyed or the law must be abandoned. It was already obvious that the drug-laws will not end the drug using, no matter what the punishments are, nor it will end war-refusing. So the tight laws were abandoned.
Hippie people had started some sort of music culture. They played loud music out on the surface. Thousands of people gathered at those concerts. They used drugs and had sex orgies. Sometimes Kapara fleet bombed them.
The peace movement was getting ever more stronger. It looked like Unis no longed had any choice but to drop the atom bombs into Kapara or surrender to the Kapara forces.
Since Janhai gave up the drug law, almost all police forces were ordered into the war against Kapara. They were needed there more. Only a few old enforcement officers like myself were left to patrol streets. We no longer arrested or reported war refusers or drug users. Frankly, we didn't have much to do.Copyright 1997, Timo Mantere
E-mail comments to a70752@UWasa.Fi
Concluded in ERBzine 0798 I was born Dec. 1966, I have read B.Sc in electrical engineering, M.Sc in Economics and Lic.Sc. in Computer science, I am working at the University of Vaasa as a researcher, and trying to finalize my PhD thesis , I research genetic algorithms and their usage in software engineering and signal processing.
I had a first contact with Burroughs' world sometime 1974, when reading first Tarzan comics, about '77 I read some first Tarzan novels, I think Tarzan and the ant men and Tarzan at the Earths core was the first two, I have to admit that I was not that impressed of these Tarzan books at the first time. The same year, or was it '78 they started to release John Carter comic in Finland, and that was really great, at least the first couple stories, and after reading first couple of comics, I borrow Warlord of Mars, and that extremely exciting book, I think I've read it six times by the date, it is always just as exciting, and still my favourite Burroughs story along with Gods of Mars. I read all Mars books fairly quicly after that and after them all the other Burroughs' stories that was translated, I think I run out of unread stories by '83. The Burrouhs interest then fainted a little, until the internet, and finding English etext of the stories that was not translated, after reading some of these, I find out I could order from the internet the rest of the English versions of Venus, Bellucidar etc. series that was not translated. I guess I decided to write some fanfic stories after I run into the Barsoomian blade side. The Poloda story was a bit of parody, I wrote '97, partly because of the original book ends prematurely and there exist so little of Poloda pastiches. The basic ideas were if hippies and peace movement would arrive to Poloda as in Earth, also the though of having Burroughs himself to arrive his fantasy world as his heroes, and the ghost writing offer a plot that Polodans would also know who he is. The ending of The princess of Mars was also parodized in this story.
At the University of Vaasa
At the University of East Anglia, Norwich
In Logan Place 1, Kensington
Out there somewhere (Hotel in Miami Beach)
On stage performances
Concluded in ERBzine 0798
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