editing and publishing
It wasn’t the sort of day when the unexpected happened.
I was sitting in Orleigh Park minding my own business, smiling in the winter sunshine,
enjoying a typical Sunday by the thick waters of the Brisbane River. There was just me
and what seemed like half the city being thoroughly human under a row of Moreton
Bay fig trees that laundered leaves on vast and ancient arms. A breeze danced off the water and flapped at my hair.
I stretched and yawned and said to myself, “What a lovely day.” Feeling slightly self-conscious about talking to myself, I thought the follow-up: It’s so calm and peaceful.
“It is so calm and peaceful, is it not?” a voice to my right said.
I looked around, shocked. I was sure I hadn’t said anything. A man stood staring at me. He was tall, well over six feet, with a rather elongated head that seemed too big for the short curly hair attempting to cover it. His face was hidden in a thick mass of beard that disappeared into a stained denim shirt. He wore a pair of black trousers, ripped at the knees, frayed at the cuffs, and held up by a length of red rope tied into an enormous knot around his waist.
I groaned as he sat next to me. My perfect Sunday was at an end. I could see the future: I would be harassed for a few minutes; would make some excuse to leave; find somewhere else to sit; spend the next ten minutes in a constant state of paranoia; miss the serenity of the park and be constantly on the lookout for the man. Inevitably, he’d find me and I’d move on until I got tired of the chase and went home.
“Not the sort of day the unexpected happens is it?” the man said.
His habit of echoing my thoughts was most unnerving. I grunted a reply hoping he would just leave me alone, see I wasn’t interested, realise I wasn’t the talkative type. I continued to watch the part of the park that required me to face the opposite direction to where he sat.
“I am a time machine,” he said.
I raised my eyebrows and sneered from the corner of my mouth. “Is that right?” I said, deadpan, hoping to convey as much ridicule and scepticism as three words could muster. I shuffled in my seat, willing disinterest into my body language.
“Have you ever thought how interesting it would be to be able to go back in time and see what really happened? To see the people involved?” he continued, obviously unconcerned by my lack of interest.
Actually, his words did prick some interest in me. Only the previous evening I had said the same thing to friends across a dinner table. I had wondered aloud whether memories were history revised by our egos; purged events that didn’t fit our self-image and changed to enhance our narcissism. I had said, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to go back in time and see what really happened? To be somehow there but not seen by anybody.”
“To be somehow there but unable to be seen by anybody,” the man said.
I turned to look at him. Was he reading my mind?
He smiled at me.
“I am a time machine,” he said.
For a moment time paused. I looked at this strange man, barely aware of the picnickers behind him or the enticing smell of barbequed sausages. Oh well, I thought, what the hell? He seemed harmless enough, and I was pretty relaxed and well-oiled after the better part of a day in the sunshine. Perhaps if I humoured him he would stay for a few minutes then move on to somebody else. I guess I was thinking in terms of pop psychology, the result of some article I’d read. Maybe this guy got some sort of pleasure in pestering people who didn’t want to talk to him. If I feigned interest in him, maybe he would lose interest in me.
“A time machine,” I said. “What sort?” I posed the question as if I were asking for a make of car.
“I am an Annunaki Temporality Reducing Activator and Historical Accuracy System,” he said immediately and without embarrassment. “You may call me AtrahaSys.”
“AtrahaSys,” I replied slowly. I vaguely remembered the name from ancient history classes at school. “Mesopotamian?” I said, wondering if showing I knew something about mythology might signal to him that I wouldn’t be easy pickings for his little show.
“That is correct. He is also known as Utnapishtim by some and Noah by others — the man who survived the great flood. I was there and recorded the incident for posterity.”
I opened my mouth to say something but found I couldn’t get words to form, so closed it. I coughed instead and looked away into the middle distance towards a group of kids hanging around their BMX bikes like primary school Easy Riders.
I again turned to the stranger. He looked like the sort of person who roamed the streets and ate out of garbage bins; the sort of local identity who harangued queues at bus stops and stalked the CityCat jetty.
I searched his eyes for something that might reveal the depth of his madness. It was then that I realised he hadn’t blinked in all the time I’d been looking at him. I watched a while longer. His blue eyes stared at me without even a flicker. I felt the desire to clap my hands in his face or wave them around like wings on a demented crow — certainly rude behaviour, but no more so than barging in on somebody’s sunny day.
“I cannot blink. I am a time machine.”
“Are the two things related?”
“I had an accident in 1412 that froze up my eyelids.”
“You are interested in ancient history, are you not?”
“I am,” I said. That was not strictly true. I had studied an introductory unit at university and had recently read a few texts as research for a novel I was writing. I enjoyed programs on television about archaeology but couldn’t claim to be a keen student of the subject.
“I can take you back to 3000 BC if you like.”
“What happened then that’s so important?” I asked.
“Have you ever heard of Gilgamesh?”
I nodded. “He was a mythical king in Sumer, I think. Didn’t he go in search of immortality?”
“Gilgamesh was a real person.”
“Really?” I again used my deadpan voice.
“A great king who fought for freedom for humanity against the wishes of the species you call gods.”
A tennis ball bounced in our direction, followed by a young girl. The ball landed at my feet. I picked it up and lightly lobbed it to her. It hit her in the chest and dropped at her feet; she made no attempt to catch it. Instead, she stared her kindergarten eyes at the scruffy man on the bench next to me. A parent ambled over, picked up the ball, took the child by her hand and whispered something in her little ear. The parent gave me a sympathetic smile and returned to her group of picnickers.
I watched them join the activities that were shunting Sunday towards Monday. There were shuttlecocks and nets, and all shapes of ball and children and father. Over by the riverbank, lovers cuddled on soft blankets; by the pagodas and steaming hotplates, knots of people laughed and drank beer while turning charred sausages; and mothers, with hands to forehead, gazed into the sunlight for a sign of their offspring, punctuating their wandering attention with snippets of conversation.
And I was sitting on a park bench talking to a tramp — an odourless one at that.
“The species we call gods?” I said, turning the words over in my mouth. I had read a few magazines and internet sites dealing with New Age philosophy and wacky, off-beat conspiracy theories. It seemed to me that they filled many people’s minds with hope that the X-Files television program was a cunningly disguised documentary. I regarded this sort of thing with sneering contempt. Certainly, it was an interesting exercise in developing storylines but I didn’t want to spend my day talking about it.
“Do you do this to everybody? Do you get off on intruding into people’s lives like this?”
“I am a time machine,” he replied. “I go wherever I am required.”
“Well, I didn’t bloody require you. I was just sitting here minding my own bus…”
I didn’t get to finish my sentence. He reached over and stroked my head. I immediately tried to withdraw, violently.
“What the fu…?”
I didn’t get to finish that line either.
“Your thoughts called me,” the AtrahaSys said. “You have been thinking about many things lately. Things I can help you understand.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are writing a novel about civilisation’s origins, are you not?”
“Well, yeah, in a manner of speaking. I was going to locate my story in an ancient city.”
“And you have been wondering about the origins of many other things.”
“I have. How do you know that?”
“I can show you these origins. I can show you many things you have not even considered.”
“I am a time machine.”
“So you keep saying, but what does that mean?”
“If you wish to come with me I will take you to the time of Gilgamesh and show you his story. I am fully interactive. You will be there but not seen by anyone. You can see what any person sees, feel some of what they feel. You can be any person in the story or you can simply observe. You may ask questions at any time and I will provide the answers. However, I must warn you, there will be many things you will see that you will not believe. The period in question is a time when truth was in the process of becoming myth and legend.”
That all sounded very interesting, a bit like a computer game.
“How do you know so much about me?”
“That is not important. Let us just accept that I do. Many things will not seem important if you decide to come with me.”
I doubted my own scepticism by now. How this guy knew about my private life was a mystery. I refused to go on until I found out what he knew.
“What do you know about me?”
The AtrahaSys spoke in a monotone, reeling off a short biography as if he were reading it from a dossier.
“You are Zac Donnigan. You write fiction, science fiction, but you dislike the term as you do not write about science. You have had thirteen short stories and one novel published. You are aged thirty-six, are one hundred and forty-seven centimetres tall and weigh seventy-five kilograms. You have fair hair and steel-grey eyes. You live alone in a large flat and enjoy your own company. You have had eight long-term personal relationships, all of them with women. You have one child. You were born in …”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, you got that wrong. I don’t have any children.”
The AtrahaSys continued without missing a beat.
“Your child’s name is Amanda Carson. She is eight years old and lives in Sydney. The child’s mother is the person you knew as Phoebe Gilchrist.”
“Phoebe? I haven’t seen her for about ten years.”
“Eight years, seven months and twenty-two days.”
“Phoebe? She dumped me because she said I was too unstable. She reckoned I was emotionally immature.”
“That is what she said to you. At the time she was having another relationship with a man called Wesley Carson.”
“Don’t know him.”
“When she found out she was pregnant she decided to choose between you and Wesley. She chose Wesley for the sake of security.”
“What does he do?”
“He is an accountant.”
“I hope they’re happy.”
“I do not know. Amanda is being well cared for.”
“So Amanda is my child?”
“You are the father.”
I had to laugh. Mid-way through laughing, it struck me that this tramp knew an awful lot about me, even things I didn’t know myself.
“How do you know these things?”
The AtrahaSys looked at a metallic strap around his wrist. It wasn’t a watch; it didn’t have a face. He passed his fingers over raised bumps, like braille, in the metal.
“It is time to go. The window has arrived. Do you want to come with me?”
“What window?” I said, searching the park, the sky and the tree leaves for some sort of Microsoft screensaver.
“There is a two minute window in which it is best to make the initial leap. You must make a decision.”
“This is all very sudden,” I said, feeling a familiar buzz of stress in my ears; something I always experienced when the weight of decision-making bore down on me. I was not good at handling pressure. Phoebe was right. I was too emotionally immature, too insecure for fatherhood, too prone to emotional outbursts for ordinary work. It was why I became a writer; why I enjoyed the seclusion of writing.
“I need a decision, Zac,” the AtrahaSys said.
What was I thinking? This guy freaks me out on a park bench, tells some bullshit story about being a time machine, of all things, and I sit here and get worked up about a decision to zip off to Mesopotamia five thousand years in the past. So what if he knew a few things about me? It could all be made up. How did I know how many relationships I’d been in? And that stuff about my daughter, well, anybody could make up that sort of thing. What was I afraid of?
“OK, so what do we do?” I said, smiling.
“Nothing. Give me a moment to focus my energy and we will be away.”
Great, I thought, he’d sit for a while and make noises and draw attention to us. Well, at least when we failed to shoot off to 3000 BC he’d be sufficiently embarrassed to excuse himself and find some other poor soul to pester with his idiotic ramblings.
On cue, the AtrahaSys whined and hummed. He vibrated a deep guttural “Ommm”.
I looked around expecting to see the whole park laughing and sniggering at his antics.
But I couldn’t see anybody. I couldn’t see anything. It was as if I existed on a blank sheet of paper. I felt a sweep of nausea and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I froze in terror. I felt my bowel surrender and the breath of my lungs flee from my mouth with a high-pitched scream.
I was facing a storm of dust led by a hundred chariots. Blood-curdling yelps of war raced inexorably towards me. A voice rang from my body, yet I was certain I had said nothing. “Sons of Uruk,” it said. “Victory is ours.” All around me, what seemed a mere handful of supporters yelled a defiant response.
And suddenly I was running towards a screaming horde of barbarians, and certain death.
excerpt from the end of
I leapt out of Gilgamesh with fear frosted to my skin.
“What’s happening? What’s going on?” I called to the time machine. “Gilgamesh suddenly tensed. I felt as if I was being tortured. What is this light that's causing so much fuss?”
“Would you like to go into the square and see for yourself?”
“If we can do that then let’s go.”
With a click of his fingers we were in the heart of Uruk as people ran wide-eyed all around us. Hundreds of them, perhaps thousands, scampered towards the ziggurat across the limestone pavements of the city. They poured from every crevice from alleys where potters’ signs and baking kilns littered the streets; from a small crack at the side of the library of knowledge; through the columns of mud brick elegance where statues of scribes were caught in the act of rolling their engraved cylinders onto soft clay.
Feet pounded towards the open square. Anticipation ran high. Children shrieked at the excitement of the adults. Young or old, rich or poor, at this moment all were the same, all overwhelmed by their eagerness to be at the foot of Inanna’s ziggurat.
This was obviously a special occasion, although I had no idea what it was. I turned to the AtrahaSys and asked, “What’s happening?”
“They are excited by something they will be lucky to glimpse but a few times in a life. They have heard the stories of their ancestors, their grandparents, the grandparents of their grandparents, and even another grandparent beyond that. They remember the stories and retell them over and over to the children. And always the beautiful Inanna is young. She is a goddess, one who lives forever. To see her arrive publicly is an event not to be missed. Something important is stirring.”
“Inanna is coming!” A man shouted as he ran passed me.
“Inanna is coming?” I repeated. “A goddess is coming here?” I looked into the starry heavens with the rest of the crowd. “This I’ve got to see.”
The steps of the ziggurat came alive with priestesses in their magnificent robes and decorations. In the moon’s luminescence, their jewels shot flashes of light so that the whole building seemed perforated with flecks of firefly white. Higher, at the apex that shone its ever-welcoming beacon to the sky, the High Priestess shimmered in a golden gown. A long train of material flowed like a mountain stream behind her, down the steps. Hairless men chanted hymns and swung great torches of incense and candlelight.
A sound like furious wind churned at some distance. A roar of a dragon breathed beyond the safety of Uruk. All around me, people craned back their heads. I followed suit, unsure what it was I was looking for.
“I can hear thunder, dada,” a little girl shouted above the din of rushing wind.
“We will see her soon,” the father replied and pointed to the sky.
“Is that lightning, dada?” she asked.
“That is the fire of her chariot,” the father said.
Together they cast their eyes upwards. The girl put her fingers into her ears to shut out the booming and bellowing as the queen came closer.
Tension rose. The crowd fell to their knees, hands clasped together. A nervous murmur spread like a disease through the anxious throng. A baby cried, a dog barked, a child wet the ground in excitement.
I looked up and beheld their queen.
Everyone, including me, sucked in air with a universal gasp of astonishment. A large disc floated over the impenetrable walls of the city and hovered as if suspended on invisible threads from heaven itself. A small dais whirled rapidly below the main disc of the craft. Its under-lights flickered as it hung impossibly above the ziggurat. The turning slowed as the machine drifted gently into position, resting on the roof of the topmost temple. We stared in amazement, all of us children of the gods in every sense.
The craft gave a long drawn out hiss as it settled into its resting place. The sound shocked the kneeling populace into a recoiling mass. Heads bowed, and moans of helplessness and prayer escaped unbidden from quivering lips. Those with stronger constitutions continued to stare in awe, although they shielded their face out of fear of direct confrontation.
I was dumbstruck.
“What the fuck …? Who the …?”
The AtrahaSys was well ahead. I was glad he could read my thoughts as it took away the burden of speech.
“They are the gods,” he said. “They are called the Anunnaki.”
Anunnaki on Earth, February 20, 2012
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This review is from: Gilgamesh (Kindle Edition)
Well, with trepidation I ventured a go at this unknown author on a topic close to my heart. I didn't expect much, but when you are as fired upabout ancient aliens as I am then you just can't get enough. Usually I go for non-fiction, but this was fiction.
Or is it? It's given as a personal record of what the protagonist, Zac, experiences. But, yes, of course it is fiction, but it's great all the same. You don't often get fiction based on Zechariah Sitchin's work. You don't often see fiction on the Anunnaki, at least not the way ancient astronaut theory portrays them.
I loved it! The premise is a bit wishy-washy: meeting a tramp in a park who turns out to be a time machine - an Anunnaki Temporality Reducing Activator and Historical Accuracy System (AtrahaSys), but that's ok, it's a funny little episode and neatly sets up the characters in one simple chapter, and then we are thrust into the story.
Zac, the protagonist, gets to travel back to Mesopotamia under the protection of the AtrahaSys. He gets to be, "... somehow there but not seen by anybody." The AtrahaSys is fully interactive and can even allow Zac the chance to see the world from any person's perspective. Although, as we see later, Zac isn't as immune from harm as he is told at first. In the ensuing pages he sees the world through the eyes of Gilgamesh; he gets crushed inside Gilgamesh's mother, Rimat Nin.sun, an Anunnaki goddess; gets raped while trapped in the body of a priestess; and is seen by an army when he glows 'like a burning bush'.
It's a really interesting ride. We get to read about the evolution of the Anunnaki and how they colonisd space, and their fight with the dreaded Grays - the Anunnaki are on the run from the Grays after being beaten in a galactic war.. Not only that, but we are given a whole new framework for understanding evolution - though, it's all a bit vague and has something to do with souls. And this is the set up for the next phase of the story: it just might be possible that the human race is potentially more advanced than the Anunnaki themselves, even though it was the Anunnaki who created us. A lovely conundrum.
Anyway, the gods meet and decide to give Gilgamesh some tasks to test him out. One is a fight with Enkidu and the next is a fight with Huwawa, which is a disposable Anunnaki robotic guard. The Enkidu character is beautifully drawn, my favourite charcter, although, to be honest, all the characters are quite different and skillfully managed.
There are laugh aloud moments, there are moments of deep insight into the human condition, and there are some startlingly creative uses of all sorts of New Age tropes. Even though I know the Gilgamesh story, I was constantly finding myself surprised by the twists and turns. The original story is supposed to be about the search for immortality but this version is more about what it is to be human. It certainly took me by surprise.
It has it faults. Some parts seem to go on longer than necessary as the author tries to recreate a sense of Sumer, which I think he achieves, and the Anunnaki parliament is a bit chaotic and confusing. And all things Anunnaki have a slightly different interpretation to how I understand them, but that's just me, I doubt whether a casual reader would know one way or another. And I'm sure you don't have to be an Anunnaki nut to like this book.
It's a genuinely good read.
Well done. I wish there were more novels based on ancient astronaut theory.
Review of Gilgamesh by Stephen Thompson
This book has a truly pleasing change of style that grabbed my attention and emotions
throughout its course. Despite its fictitious nature, the fundamental elements that underline this excellent book have great appeal. Even though it is set in two time periods 5000 years apart, I found myself easily adapting to the conventions dictated by the plot.
The story begins with an ordinary man in ordinary, 21st century Brisbane. Set upon by a stranger—a time-traveller from Mesopotamia—he is taken back as a subject in an experiment designed to investigate possibly the strangest phenomenon in the universe: the human spirit.
The pace begins comfortably and we get glimpses of humanity in the ancient legendary figure of Gilgamesh. Zac Donnigan, our ordinary man, is caught in the struggle of emotionally paralleling his own psyche with that of the venerated hero. Unfortunately, Zac has no means of communicating this to him or any others. War councils, treaties, alien experiments and manipulations are all cleverly interwoven and the ever-familiar abuse of mass psychology plays a leading role in this unique tale, which kept me drawn to every page.
One of the most easily appreciated aspects of the work is the way the author creates empathy for our own vulnerable species as we read of the tragedies resulting from surrendering our inner spirit to a religious elite. The characters in the novel struggle against a system of enforced beliefs that prey upon their ignorance and the same foibles that currently plague humankind are dramatically apparent to the mature reader with an open mind.
The book also delves into layers of history, mythology and other fascinating subjects that will ensure appeal to a wide audience. As a side attraction, the layout and design of the book was a refreshing change from the often overloaded images that presently flood the covers of many new publications.
Although extremely selective as a reader, I was thoroughly delighted by Stephen's work and recommend this easy-to-read yet soul-stirring novel to anybody seeking a unique view into the depths of the real human spirit.
Old Wine in a New Bottle
by Pseftonoma on February 8, 2010
Stephen Thompson moves out from behind his twin desks (editor and publisher at Esteemedia, and editor/ contributor to www.specusphere.com - a site devoted to all manner of speculative fiction and ideas) - to reveal his first full length novel.
Revisiting the oldest known hero myth “The Epic of Gilgamesh” he takes us on an entertaining and thought provoking ride back to the birth of civilisation by way of a most unexpected time machine - a dishevelled hobo. He dares us to suspend disbelief in such a light hearted way that we happily accept.
Such a start indicates that he intends to challenge the conventional handling of serious themes. They are not necessarily best served with more seriousness. Deep thought and fun are not mutually exclusive. e.g no need to tediously explain the plausibility of time travel, that exploring the significance of mythology needn't be a dry academic pursuit.
And, most fun of all, he guilessly breaks the "4th wall" by not worrying about setting up any plot device to be "plausible". Instead, all four participants ( the reader, the author, the narrator/anti-hero and side-kick) find ourselves in agreement that we are all tricksters when we partake in fiction, so let's bypass all that stuff and cut to the chase.
Except for a few minor parts (fewer than many famed works) I found the narrative flowed and carried me along effortlessly. And on more than a few occasions I either LOL'd or was stopped short, impressed by a particular turn of phrase.
Most impressive was how the author skillfully remains true the original myth whilst introducing all kinds of modern sc-fi and speculative ideas into the plot. Unlike Hollywood’s habit of twisting, omitting and re-ordering a classic in the name of “entertainment”, the author includes all the elements, characters and events of the myth and the known facts of the historical Gilgamesh (who actually ruled in 2700 BC).
Someone who didn't know the original legend would only need to replace ‘extraterrestrial overlords” with “gods” and they’d go away with a very clear outline of the important cultural treasure that is "The Epic of Gilgamesh" . It may appear a simple idea after the fact, but only a skilled craftsman can execute it so enjoyably.
The weave of the plot raises issues of colonialism, genetic technology, man’s relationship to the earth and nature. There are resonances with current geo-political events, and the ever-present dilemmas of being human (which are the qualities of myth). The characterisations (the author literally gets inside the heads of his main characters) confront us with questions of where duty and loyalty lie, how far do we compromise our society’s culture, security and stability for the sake of realising human potential or political freedom.
Given that only the first parts of the epic have been covered in this volume, and some things are left unresolved or unanswered, the ending hints strongly at a sequel. If enough readers discover this pleasure of a book, maybe the author will cook up a second course?
Although not “5 stars - Excellent” in each and every possible way, it was the enjoyment factor that nudged it higher than a “4 stars- good” rating for me.