Professor Paradigm (See under 2007.)
Book 4, Prologue
Oh. Hello. You recognise me. Of course. Who does not know Professor Paradigm by his “crimes?” And now you know the face, and the name, behind the mask. How many doctoral dissertations in mathematics become national news, after all? That was 24 years ago, of course, but your teachers will have reminded you about mine. Oh, it was controversial. No-one hired me to do the job that I was trained to do. No-one had the money to pay me to teach. Even though they had the money to pay me to learn! Did you know that? Did you know that doctoral students are paid to learn, that they receive scholarships and fellowships from the government and from business and from charities?
Let’s stop to consider the ridiculousness of it all. We –you, your parents—pay for the polishing of genius like mine. Well, almost like mine. I am unique, but there is plenty of only somewhat lesser talent going to waste in this world of ours today. I teach drama now. Perhaps it is because I am a world-historical genius that I have a nice, union job for the public school board here in a nice neighbourhood in Philadelphia. Mere run-of-the-mill geniuses get to draw espresso in sad little kiosks and fight for the tip jar, instead.
You see my point, how tragic, how wasteful it is. It was not uncommon when I graduated. It is pretty much universal now. I hope you didn’t fancy that your education was going to get you a job! Best practice drawing little hearts in the foam on a latte now, little one! It will get you better tips. I thought that I would be different. That my genius would be recognised. That I would get a job, teaching, educating, researching. That when I was done being paid to learn, some fine library, somewhere, would throw open the door and allow me the access that my genius had already earned!
Perhaps you think that I am bitter and jealous. You doubt my genius. Oh, do not look at me. I will not wipe you from existence for that private thought, even though doing so would prove my genius without doubt. To the ashes of your corpse.
Let me instead assure you that my genius was recognised all right. People shook their heads at it, but they knew. And then they went and hired ….someone else. I don’t blame them, you know. Imagine that you are a fisherman in a boat, and that you come across a ferry disaster in the night waters. Hundreds of people bob up and down in the water. In a shock, you hear a familiar voice. There are your nephew and your niece, right there in the water! And you have room for only two in your little boat
Who do you save? It’s a stupid question! You do not make random choices, drawing cards or shaking dice. Of course you save your nephew and your niece. There’s a word in our language: nepotism. It means hiring your nephew and your niece when you have a job opening. Honestly: that’s what it means. Because we need a word for that, because that’s how long that the people who hire have been like the fisherman in the boat, facing the needs of hundreds with only room for their nephew and their niece.
I did not, as you would imagine, have an uncle who could hire me, and so I ended up designing games, instead. They were good games, and they paid my living; if I was not ambitious, if I did not dream above my station, of a house in the suburbs, of a family, then I would have a good life.
Nice houses in leafy suburbs and families were for people who had uncles. Not geniuses. Not that I wanted such things. All that I wanted was a chance to stretch my genius with something more interesting than worker placements and area control, with amusing game balance questions and nice components.
Then, one day, on a vacation in Australia, I saw something that would change my life forever: The Melbourne Interpretative Centre for The Third Complex Archaeological Horizon. You know the story: four times during the Stone Age, human society abruptly got more complex. Or, at least, complex enough to show up in archaeological horizons as something more sophisticated than Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. Arrogant sorcerers tell us that the first horizon was the Age of Gods, the second the “Turakian Age,” the Third “The Valdorian Age,” while the fourth was the “Atlantean Age.” They say that they were eras when “magic” was stronger than it is today, and that each age was ended when magic waned.
Arrogant, oh arrogant. They think they know these things because they have learned to “cast,” as they say, “spells,” as they call them. Little algorithms for the control and influencing of this multiversal reality of ours, conceived by good scientific minds and handed down in gnostic schools that demanded that students memorise a lifetime of spiritual nonsense for every algorithm that their teachers deigned to pass on.
The truth is that the four horizons were ended by ice age climate change. Civilisation based on mumbo-jumbo cannot withstand the slightest adversity. Either the ice advances, or the storms howl and the crops fail as the land warms. Either way, the schools are swept away, the “spells” are lost, and in a few generations people are back to using stone tools and talking about “the Dreamtime.”
Only they are not lost. They live on; in the minds of sorcerers powerful enough to attain immortality, like the lich Takofanes or that wormy-eaten thing called The Slug, or elsewhere in this great multiverse of ours. For there are times and times, and time travellers and aliens. I have met them all. Time travellers from the future? From outer space? From the past? From other universes? Others hide, and dare me to find them out and publish their secrets to the world.
If I wanted to bother, mark you, I could. You cannot walk without tripping over these would-be Illuminati. I could rout out their hidden refuges and their secret cities, pull men like the immortal geneticist who calls himself “Fang” kicking and squirming into the light. Never fear, such so abound in this world of ours that I could rampage for decades and not touch them all. Their secrets circle round like the Worm Ourobouros, if that great worm’s body plunged down through a gap in reality rather than the world sea.
Literally, I mean. Have you heard of the witless fool called Captain Chronos? My researches tell me that he is from 50,000 years in the future, and one of the dubious boons he brings us is the telling us that Mars hosted a spacefaring civilisation a billion years before life arose on Earth. Can you grasp, with your merely normal brain, what my genius sees in that? The unguessed horizons, the vast purposes, the wheels-within-wheels? Even the power of my disciplined imagination cannot see the implications of every wild surmise.
Here is what I do know. Hovering at one remove from all the merely human worlds of all the merely human dimensions of this great multiverse lies the quintessence of civilisation that they call Babylon, City of Man and Art. It is a dimension open to all. Open to you, open to me. And in it there is a Library, and in that Library is every secret lost to man.
You know why they are lost to man? Because otherwise, all the tendentious little would-be hierophants who do have access wouldn’t be able to lord their secrets over the rest of us. Well, no more; I will use this Library as it was intended, to pierce the veil and reveal what lies behind it; show you what reality really looks like.
Too long, didn’t read, as you young folk say. The Library won’t let me in, even though it is admitting students from my own high school. It will let you in. I can use you to get access to the Library, and, in return, I will do you favours. My first favour is that I won’t reduce you to smoking ash.
My genius tells me that you would appreciate that.