Behind the Scenes

I’ve been very fortunate in my years as editor to work with exceptional and bright people dedicated to refashioning ideas in science and philosophy. We’re going through a time of enormous change in western culture, and the old paradigms no longer stand the test of time. Many of our accepted practices and beliefs have brought us, and our planet, to a place of extreme vulnerability and dire ugliness. Tragically, we have too long disregarded the damage we’ve been causing, and those voices that called out for change were simply ignored. Governments and institutions that should have been protectors of society and landscape, have played into the hands of commerce and short-term profiteering.

It was against this background that I started to write King Abba, a philosophical fantasy for young people, equally for any thoughtful person unhappy with current values and practices in education, science, technology, economics and government. My aim was to open up questions which are not often asked in our educational system, and introduce doubts and queries where we take so much for granted as if there were no other way of seeing things. As much of what we accept is actually absurd, there is a comic element in the book, too. It can be seen as a satire of our times and our present world. The book is written as an adventure story, but stops now and then to ask questions.

Now Behind the Mountain takes the story further as we discover what happens to Fion and Dream after the breakdown of the system. More questions, this time of a more immediate nature, but just as important. Here we enter the realm of survival … And the meaning of values and relationship.

CJM April 2014


Science, Transition and the Storyteller

Those who have read King Abba, the first book of The Seven Songs, will recall that it portrays in the not too distant future a United States of Europus governed by a single party founded on unassailable principles of science and reason. Who could question such a benevolent order? It would represent the fruition and triumph of the Enlightenment dream. As Alex Proud wrote nostalgically in a recent Telegraph article, many people have long pinned their vision of a secular rational society on such a premise: “There was a widespread, unspoken belief that science could and would solve all our problems.” (04/03/2014) Why not then combine science, reason and politics in a perfect marriage as King Abba describes?

Yet there was always a catch in this vision of a rational Utopia. It was doomed to fail for one simple reason: it was founded on the wrong science. Alex Proud goes on to lament that “ these days it feels a bit like the Enlightenment has gone into reverse”. But if so, surely this is because we have come to treat the light of reason as a utility, rather like the light in a fridge door. We turn it on when it serves us and ignore it when it doesn’t. There is only on/off. There is no “whole dynamic picture” guiding a process to some creative end. The light doesn’t illuminate any meaningful path.

So at the end of King Abba, the Utopian high-tech order collapses, fatally flawed, unable to sustain its own technically brilliant but pointless wizardry. The King has disappeared, leaving all in chaos, some wise souls assuring that this is precisely what he wants. Now, it seems, we must all pass through the edge of chaos and ride the wave of transition. Different groups will make their own paths through this chaotic change and seek out new forms of stability.

Behind the Mountain picks up from here. Two of the royal youngsters are rescued from the final cataclysm by the wise woman Margaret. She leads them to safety in the mountains to join the Bellsingers, an alternative community dedicated to living in peace and harmony with nature and in consensus with one another. The belief system here is as fierce as the secular mentality of the Rationalists, who despise and persecute the Bellsingers for their so-called “medieval” errors and superstitions.

Where comes the storyteller in all this? Well, culturally stories are the history, and perhaps more importantly, the future of a society. They have prophetic power. Stories tell not only of the choices that we have, but also the consequences of making them. Significantly, too, all storytellers know from their experience that they don’t tell the stories. The stories are told to them. The warnings come from elsewhere. Here we participate in a great mystery.

But now the curtain is rising, The Seven Songs are tuning up, and my youngsters invite you to join them on their individual hero journeys. Where will they lead?

I hope you enjoy the read. Thanks for your interest and support.


This introduction was first posted on Simon Robinson’s

See: #storytelling

My thanks to Philip Franses too for his generous review on the same website.