Rising Sun: Issue 5 August 2000

NavigationThis Issue Weaponry of the Kai Birthplace: Appendix Stories Naaros Rising Tijil's Fang Role-playing Ruins of the Ancients The Memory of Haakon Games The Mirror of Death

By John Grant

Here is the unpublished appendix to the Legends of Lone Wolf Book 7, The Birthplace. The author reveals the scientific notions he drew on for the the creation of the fantasy.


The Birthplace is not a science-fiction novel -- it is a pure fantasy in which many a buckle is swashed -- but it does rely for a deal of its ideas and imagery on various scientific hypotheses. That this is so need not concern the reader, and certainly should not affect what I humbly hope has been your enjoyment of this book. This appendix is purely for those who'd like to know where certain elements of this novel came from.

The Other Qinefer

Our brain is divided into two halves, the right and left hemispheres, and these are linked by a "bridge" called the corpus callosum, a large bundle of nerve fibres. Experiments on animals as well as on humans who for one reason or another have had their corpus callosum severed have demonstrated not only that the two hemispheres can and do function independently but also, and perhaps more significantly, that they each have a quite distinct range of mental abilities -- almost as if there were two different "persons" living inside each of us. We can say, as a very broad generalization, that the left brain is the site of our intellectual activity and the right the hemisphere responsible for less precise, more "instinctual" patterns of thought. It has been suggested that, in the normal brain (i.e., one in which the corpus callosum hasn't been severed) the left hemisphere dominates our thinking to the extent that we very rarely "hear from" the right. Nonetheless, the right brain can on occasion, if sufficiently perturbed, get its message through: this may be the root of "hunches".

Parapsychologists have made much of these discoveries and hypotheses, and using them have produced interesting models in an endeavour to explain such presumed phenomena as precognition, the poltergeist effect and, most notably in our context, "demonic" possession. What is happening in each case, they argue, is that the right brain is communicating its non-intellectual and nonverbal knowledge to the left with such vigour that the left responds.

The phenomenon of "demonic" possession seems clearly to be related to that of split personality, the most celebrated cases of which this century have probably been those of "Eve" (Christine Sizemore) and "Sybil". Here what is happening, it has been postulated, is that the "mind" present in the right brain has burst through with such force that it can, at least temporarily, swamp that of the left, which is forced to verbalize the right brain's thoughts. That the right brain's thoughts seem to be generally "darker" than those of the left is possibly a myth born from the fact that the right brain, in these and other far less dramatic incidents, seems to the left brain -- the intellectual "us" -- to be an invader.

Without necessarily endorsing any of these speculations, I've obviously drawn upon them in my treatment of a Qinefer into whose mind has been planted a kernel of Naar, and of what she would have felt in such a situation.

The Spell Generated by Banedon and Jenara

It has been said, perhaps a trifle grandiosely, that there have been only three important contributions to twentieth-century science: Relativity, quantum mechanics and Chaos. It would be impossible in a few paragraphs to give any sensible summary of Chaos -- James Gleick's highly recommended Chaos (1987), a popular introduction to the subject, is by no means a short book, and yet even it has difficulty in describing exactly what scientists mean by use of the term. In our context, a "definition" doesn't matter, since I've borrowed from Chaos purely some imagery: that of a simple initial pattern being built up, apparently regularly, but, through random and seemingly negligible influences (the thoughts of Banedon and Jenara), "budding" as it grows until it produces an infinitely rich and complex pattern that bears apparently no relation to the original -- and yet which is, fundamentally, in reality the same pattern.

Something of these ideas can be imagined by consideration of what has recently become a popular summation of Chaos in the media: that a butterfly flapping its wings in California may be responsible for hurricanes all over Northern Europe.

Qinefer's Encounter with the Birthplace

Here the imagery I've borrowed is that of one -- very plausible -- model of the Big Bang. We're used to thinking of this as some titanic explosion that brought into being all of the matter and energy to be observed in our expanding Universe. However, this simplistic notion -- while there is a lot of truth in it -- begs a lot of questions, the most obvious of which is: where did all that matter and energy come from?

We're all familiar with the term "antimatter": it refers to "stuff" which is to all intents and purposes exactly like the ordinary matter to which we're accustomed, but all of its properties are exactly opposite. Bring together a piece of antimatter with a piece of matter and you get a very loud bang indeed as the two of them annihilate each other immediately. The fact that this is so has led to the concept of "pair creation". Since a particle of matter and a particle of antimatter will mutually annihilate in this way, there is nothing in the mathematics underpinning our physics to suggest that pairs of matter and antimatter particles cannot spontaneously pop into existence "out of nowhere", instantly destroy each other, and disappear back into "nowhere" -- "disappear without trace", as it were.

But there ain't no such place as "nowhere", and so surely such particle pairs must have some sort of existence? (In the condition of being in "nowhere" they are called "virtual particles".) Moreover, in certain circumstances one of the particles may survive. One such circumstance is close to a black hole, where the huge gravity may whip away either the matter or the antimatter particle before the two have had a chance to destroy each other.

To return to the Big Bang. We can imagine that initially there was a sea of virtual particles -- a vast expanse of "nowhere". Often enough there would be pair creation but, as the two particles instantly vanished again, this made no difference. Then, for some unknown reason (who knows? -- possibly related to Chaos?), there was an imbalance and a matter particle survived. Multiply this many times over and you find out why there seems to be so very little antimatter around: every time it came to a dust-up between matter and antimatter, matter had a better chance of winning the day, because there was increasingly more of it around. Finally, although almost all of the potential "stuff" of the Universe remained in the form of virtual particles, there was a leftover scum of matter -- which we see as galaxies, stars, planets, people and so on.

That's a very brief and oversimplified explanation of the theory: interested readers will find the matter discussed with much more rigour in any number of excellent popular texts on cosmology. As you will see, however, I've borrowed the imagery of the "seeding" of the particle sea in order to show how Qinefer was able both to destroy the Birthplace and, in the process, to make herself whole again.

To readers with a logical mind who ask how, in so doing, she did not also destroy Naar in his entirety, all I can plead is novelist's licence.

Qinefer's New Mode of Thought

Obviously there is a heck of a lot of Taoistic philosophy involved here, and I won't dwell on it. The idea of patterns, though, perhaps requires a few words.

The phenomenon of Brownian motion -- popularly nicknamed "drunkard's walk" -- is well known to most schoolchildren who have taken physics beyond elementary level. If we look at the progress of a particle of colloidal size (i.e., bigger than a molecule but too small to be seen by a conventional microscope; smoke particles, for example, are of colloidal size) we see that it seems to be totally haphazard. This is because the particle is sufficiently small for the random jostlings of the air molecules around it to affect its path. (More shades of Chaos!)

Imagine that you've made a movie of such a colloidal particle as it goes from A to B. You can plot the precise path that it has followed: the particle has traced a very definite "pattern" in its progress, and it has very definitely got from A to B. Trouble is, you only know what that pattern is after the event; and there are trillions of other patterns it could have traced with the same overall effect of taking it from A to B.

Now imagine that you knew in advance what particular pattern the particle was going to trace ...

This is the new mode of thought that has come to Qinefer through her encounter with the Birthplace and her experience of the "seeding" effect that her own consciousness has had upon the myriad possible routes traceable from point to point across the "surface" of the particle sea. It does not, of course, mean that she can predict the future: she can, however, anticipate patterns and the constantly changing nature of future ones according to each new influence exerted upon her own.

As I say, these scientific notes are quite irrelevant to the story. I thought, however, that it was worth appending them for those readers who might find them of some interest, however trivial.

Contact: TheRisingSun@bigfoot.com

Lone Wolf © TM Joe Dever 1984-2000.
All Rights Reserved.