39 - Science Fiction
Death by progressive distancing from the Sun is one of the ways the Argentine writer Santiago Dabove foretold the end of the world.
Unidentified magnetic bodies severely compromise Earth's rotation speed, and just as natural phenomena see their cyclical routine affected, people also end up revealing their most shameless and dark facets.
Introduction January 7, 2021. "Scientists around the world have noted that the Earth has been spinning on its axis [access] faster lately—the fastest ever recorded. Several scientists have spoken to the press about the unusual phenomenon, with some pointing out that this past year saw some of the shortest days ever recorded. For most of the history of mankind, time has been marked by the 24-hour day/night cycle (with some alterations made for convenience as the seasons change). The cycle is governed by the speed at which the planet spins on its axis. […] Planetary scientists are not concerned about the new finding; they have learned that there are many factors that have an impact on planetary spin—including the moon's pull, snowfall levels and mountain erosion. They also have begun wondering if global warming might push the Earth to spin faster as the snow caps and high-altitude snows begin disappearing." Taken from "The Earth has been spinning faster lately," written by Bob Yirka, January 7, 2021. Phys.org: https://phys.org/news/2021-01-earth-faster.html
Welcome, dear listeners of Tres Cuentos, the bilingual podcast dedicated to Latin American literary, historical, and traditional narratives. I am Carolina Quiroga-Stultz, and today we begin "The Dawn of Hispanic Science Fiction."
The introduction to this episode is an excerpt from the scientific paper, "The Earth has been spinning faster lately," published in the digital journal Phys.org, written by Bob Yirka.
If my memory does not fail me, I was about 22 years old and playing water polo - or pretending to play - and there I met a friend who, upon learning of my interest in literature, asked me if I had read Isaac Asimov. Since I had no idea who that was, my friend lent me The End of Eternity.
Well, I did not return the book. I was so fascinated that I bought all the other books from Asimov that could be found. As of today, I have read the saga of The Foundation three times. And the stolen book is stored in my treasure chest.
Latin American science fiction is not as well-known as it is North American counterpart, which is why I chose a selection that I hope will serve as an appetizer.
Today's author is an Argentine of whom little is known, Santiago Dabove, a friend of Jorge Luis Borges. Thanks to the latter and others, today we know more about Dabove's insightful work. The next story can be found in the book in Spanish, La muerte y su Traje (Death and His Suit).
On this occasion, we have had the collaboration of Nora Charles and Lizzie Suffa. They are students from the University of Virginia participating in Mrs. Alexa Jeffres's translation class. I will tell you more about them in the comments.
The Latin word "Finis" has multiple meanings: last, far, worse, low, extreme, and the combination of these is what we find in the story called Finis.
Unidentified magnetic bodies severely compromise Earth's rotation speed, and just as natural phenomena see their cyclical routine affected, people also end up revealing their most shameless and dark facets.
By Santiago Dabove
Translated by Nora Charles and Lizzie Suffa
Edited by Don Hymel
Under a certain circumstance, I had to go to the cemetery of dissidents, which today no longer exists, to remove from an old grave the ashes of a distant relative. I had been entrusted to put them in an urn because otherwise the local authorities would confiscate the remains since the cemetery was going to be closed. The grave was a simple marble quadrangle. It only required a lever to open it. Even though the gravedigger was no longer lending his services, a worker, the manager, and I managed to open it.
The aperture of a grave always impresses those who are not accustomed to it. It's like a false mystery that wants to reveal itself, or like a sort of stubbornness that asks for clarifications that cannot be found…who knows all of the secrets that tombs enclose.
When the stone gave in and I could see the interior, I found that the coffin was broken and split in such a way that the bones -which were still not disjointed- were only accompanied by some wood strips acting as splints for the bones.
There was nothing more than the smell of damp. Yes? No! Next to the folded arm, my eyes discovered a kind of metal cylinder that I grabbed right away. I unscrewed the top and found a leather envelope protecting some partially deteriorated papers. With curiosity, I took them, waiting to read them until I arrived at my house.
So, I returned, with the manuscript and a small urn that contained some broken and partly pulverized bones. The result of time and neglect seeing on those bones was as similar as if they had passed through the cremation chamber.
It was winter, and with a good fire in front of me I reviewed the manuscript that, in part, seemed like a prophecy, and, in part, a simple literary confession. I also noted a certain stirring tone, as if the author had had a premonition. It seems as if he "knew" more regarding the future than many historians do regarding the past. And if we could investigate in detail the intrinsic causes of our history, I would dare to say that most historians would do better being artists, novelists, semi-creative poets, or simply pathetic inventors of the past, more like anti-prophets.
Here is what the manuscript said:
In the first third of the year 1..34, (two figures from the date were erased and the third was unclear, I could not figure out if it was an 8 or 3) astronomers discovered a singular fact: the routes of the asteroids or planetoids were abruptly altered without apparent cause. Those that directed their powerful telescopes to these little planets situated between Mars and Jupiter, observed them as if they were full of tarantula bites. The lack of regularity of their movements, made them look like a swarm of mayflies in front of a flashlight.
While this might entertain young children, it created uncertainty for astronomers. What could have happened to alter the gravity and solemn steadiness of this swarm of little stars? Scientists pondered, but no answers occurred. Time passed and some planetoids disappeared. The mystery appeared to intensify by the minute and the astronomers grew more suspicious. Then it was assumed and feared that planet earth would come to join the irregular astral dance. And this justified dread became an alert or perhaps the prologue of what was to come.
Some amateur astronomers were sure that they had seen some vague bodies charged with a great electrical energy that, because of their infrared radiation and according to the spectroscopic analysis, suggested the presence of iron oxide. They believed that these vague bodies or planetoids should behave like gigantic and monstrous electromagnets. If this were the case, our planet – so rich in iron and other metals – could be very well affected by these enormous magnetic bodies.
Their theories were confirmed even sooner than they had hoped. But this joy in seeing their scientific assertions fulfilled, was thwarted by the fear of what was to come.
Slowly, many humans, above all those that were not navigators by trade, began to feel this faint vertigo, emptiness, and depression that occurs with the abrupt rise and fall of an elevator. Others, those who had travelled in an airplane, said that it felt like a sudden descent. The majority spoke of an epidemic that would end up causing great destruction, and the doctors, just in case, invented injections, and vaccines. But soon it was apparent that it was nothing of this sort.
At that time, I, Marcos Prescott, had just proposed to Amanda, who was spending her convalescence in a nice hotel built in the middle of several forested hectares. I was on leave from the company "Wings for Man," a manufacturer of mechanical tools that were designed to fold into suitcases. These tools allowed men to fly in the air looking like bearded angels.
But to clarify, that they looked like angels for nothing more than the fact that they flew, since men's intimate nature still could not be modified. However, what was most pleasing to see was the grace with which the women threw themselves out of bed, at the mercy of these machines, and gave you a hand with a truly angelic smile.
During one of my habitual visits with Amanda, I found her sick with the maladies of vertigo, nausea, and an emptiness. I, who had believed that she was already completely recuperated, was shaken at the thought of a relapse.
"No, it's not any of that," my girlfriend told me. "The real cause of this malaise lies in the fact that the planet moves in a different way than it formerly had."
I had considered Amanda to be very intelligent, but this opinion of hers seemed crazy. Even so, upon leaving, I believed that I, indeed, observed the planet's movement, and that now it was moving in outbursts.
I became tremendously frightened thinking that the feeling was subjective and that I was going crazy, just like Amanda. But I quickly convinced myself of the contrary. The same thing occurred to everyone that I asked, and it was not necessary to inquire much to ascertain that they had experienced the same sensations.
One felt the Earth's movement not like an earthquake, but like a thrust. I don't need to tell you how much this terrestrial and stellar disruption mortified me in my relationship during this period.
Day to day the planet's rapt movements grew. What appeared to be its rises and falls made me dizzy. Sometimes it seemed to stop like it was in doubt and then suddenly resume its raging path, the same way a badly broken and poorly oriented machine would. Sometimes people had to hold hands and, also grab on to trees to hold themselves up.
Women complained of intense vertigo; some aborted. Children and madmen were content. The disconcerted sages said that we could not directly observe the movement of the Earth, since everything moved with us, including the atmosphere, but as the sensation of violent movement continued to exist, they insinuated that we had entered another more vast atmosphere.
Towers were built to suspend pendulums that recorded terrestrial movement on sand tracks. These pendulums had a spike, a pick in their bottom margin. The pendulums descended from the sky with dizzying speed. When they touched the ground, they began a wriggling or zigzagging movement, plowing the Earth with the spike. They caused many accidents and broke the hard head of more than one sage.
Erotic poets said that Geo, from jumping chaotically and in unequal impulses, was not the paltry atom anymore, regulated by the astronomers, but was a flea persecuted by the moist fingers of a deity.
Priests said that all of this was happening because of the lack of faith and mankind's abandonment of its duties to itself and above all to the Church.
As the phenomena continued, the sages were the most mystified of all. If the phenomena were to pass, they could be archived, forgotten, and almost disregarded. This would allow men, from time to time, to make a disparaging reference to it, as one does with unsuccessful revolutions that go against the party in power.
Astronomers, many of whom appear as if they dictate the laws of the Universe -- as conceited as they are with their calculations, especially after the Le Verrier affair -- spoke of reforming the classical mechanics, and perspired thinking about the number of observations that they would have to do, given the prevailing anarchy of movement, so that their observations and calculations, sanctioned and reinforced by a new experience, would again be taken as edicts.
Due to the altered movement and rotation, we had some noticeably short days, and others that were awfully long. We had plight and disorder of every kind. Economic upheavals: for example: one credit bill scheduled to be paid in 90 or 180 days, suddenly had to be paid in hours, according to the central clock.
Many people were indignant because some lowly beings and "certain poets" were not hurt by the irregularity nor did they participate in the panic, and the sacred wrath that the new order inspired, or better put, the new disorder of things.
These perverted and vicious beings had gone so far in their repugnant indifference that they even instituted a new game, similar to roulette. This game was played in random streaks based on the aleatory duration of the new days and nights, using their watches that ran smoothly with the old regularity...
But the fear that was almost all-encompassing, should not increase as long as the Earth was only like a plump, surprised partridge that takes flight.
But soon the seas swept the beaches like brooms during the planet's sudden outbursts, causing terrible disasters. The seasons were completely altered in a matter of days and even hours. The summer became more scorching and the winter grimmer, which ruined the vegetation. Life underground became more necessary, and, with impressive technique, men went on mining large compounds like a subterranean sprawl in which they achieved the three conditions that the mathematician and physicist Joseph Fourier requested: economy, utility, and magnificence. However, there was something unconvincing in this magnificence, like an act done without any hope, like something that should die and disappear.
However, amid so much misfortune there were some advantages for the human race: flies and mosquitoes disappeared with the abrupt change in temperature. The foul and vile bed bugs did not leave their places of refuge out of fear of a sudden chill, and they died of starvation.
Due to the increasing fear of epidemics, it was determined that everything inside the underground buildings had to be new. However, many categories of unscrupulous lice, fungi, parasites, and bacillus accompanied man in his subterranean life.
People had to sustain themselves with mushrooms cultivated in cellars and ad hoc enclosures. Some so-called sages extracted a nutritional combination from petroleum. The petroleum-based food with no taste was very expensive. Whereas a cheaper version of it, the most sold, caused a revolting lamp smell on the mouths of the poor people that consumed it. One had to pay a high price for a thing that had no enjoyment.
They still maintained vegetable provisions and animals in great quantity, but they did not bestow them for fear of shortage, and also, because they were selfish. They were already beginning to produce concentrated food with chemical substances. This last bit was known from long ago, but its use was abandoned for the persistent and very dangerous constipation that it caused. In summary, all of this meant goodbye to pleasant sensuality and the good life.
Many said that God had abandoned us, but to me it seemed the contrary, I noticed His violent intentions everywhere and everywhere we were exposed to risk and adventure.
Since Amanda had recovered her full vigor of health some time ago, she begged for us to go out once to celebrate. It was autumn, and we would have enjoyed a replica of our calm nature, had it not been disrupted by the sensation of the Earth's sudden movements. I clung to the hands of my girlfriend as we formed a ring with other girls who had also locked hands with their boyfriends. We resisted the wind in that circle of love. We did not think of dying. The girls, impatient to make a stable home, gave little angry kicks against the ground of the planet that did not permit rest for love, or security, or anything that looked like the old times. As they were doing that, the Earth made a sudden start like a poorly driven bus. The plant pots with the last flowers that the enamored girls had placed in them, fell to the side, and the dogs fled barking.
Again, in this circle of youth, we swirled with the leaves that a circular wind brought us, leaves from the last trees of that last autumn. The scene reminded me of a melancholic end. Amanda and I spun with our hands attached to each other, and towards other young hands that trembled from fear of dying from unfulfilled love. In a crazy turn, we spun away from the circle to roam spin like a blur in a long twilight that lasted more than six sad hours. Note that there had been much longer twilights, and sometimes, no twilight at all.
My heart cowered. I said "Amanda, I love you. Let's get married!"
(Amanda) "Wait for everything to settle," she replied. "We can't live off petroleum food. What we have isn't enough."
My grief worsened. How can I calmly wait for the earthly catastrophe without her love?
I said "But… don't you understand?"
(Him) "Fine, let's not marry. Let's just love each other."
(Amanda) "We already love each other."
(Him) "No, we do not love each other. Love should be like this," I said, linking our fingers and squeezing with all my strength. "It is not love if it does not leave a footprint on our bodies. Stop hesitating. Let us love each other for tomorrow we will die!"
This declaration of love, that smelled of rhetoric from the times of the roman poets Gayo Valerio Catulo or Horace, had a serious and decisive meaning now. It seemed to me that Amanda 's eyes saw love as an "eternal fact" rather than meteorology or cosmology.
Amanda caressed my hair and said, "Certainly, poor thing, poor us… Well… when the moon is full… ."
She already knew and I as well, that the moon had suffered the same damage as Earth. Did Amanda mistakenly count on the waxing crescent moon that was believed to have affected women? It didn't matter, in only a few minutes, the moon achieved its full phase. I looked at Amanda She seemed like a magnolia bloom about to open.
"Let's go," she said to me, caressing my hair.
As I went with her, my arm around her waist, I thought: "Could all humanity die? Will there be any replicas of us in the rest of the Universe? I do not know.
I wondered that if heat and necessary sustenance were available, could I not create humanity anew through my love for Amanda? Could I force her to be prolific for the pure joy of it? Ah! I would not want that, Dieu m'en preserve! (God save me)
Despite the irregular conditions of life and the altered meteorology, there was a certain optimism. Maybe there was faith in everything that had happened. The businesspeople and the industrialists were those that "felt" and proclaimed this positive confidence. Most of the others who were frightened were called defeatists. The goal of the businesspeople was to continue selling their products.
The "Wings for Man" company called me to go on an advertising tour, supplied with my flying device that made me rise with a burst so precise and fall so gently.
After a short and fruitless "raid" of business propositions, with a radius of some hundred kilometers, I returned to the places where Amanda should have been, but I could not find her.
On the descent of one of those flights, where I wore the air device that looked like a backpack, I found myself in front of one of the underground buildings that were recently built. It was like a sinkhole but much more spacious.
Inside there were large furnaces – fantastic heating devices. They were going to use the heat not only for the simple but essential task of heating everything but also for powering textile machines and other indispensable industries.
The mouth of the entrance was sunken and was followed by a short staircase with unrefined steps that seemed made of hardened soil. To keep the interior warm, the door would not be opened for longer than it took for one person to enter or exit. Its unique form resembled a cetacean's mouth or perhaps a dying fish that was yawning.
A little further inside were some sprinklers and air heaters that were linked together very elaborately. With a certain lethal laziness, each yawn seemed to swallow one or several men, and from its red glow it seemed that the cetacean's insides were made of fire.
The insides were like a hive. It had a small forge and blast furnace where people worked with metals. The big heating devices sent tubes of all calibers in all directions. Sweaty and muscular men operated the last bit of this whole factory. But there was also an abundance of places for weary workers to rest.
I considered that the portion of humanity most devoted to life would end up in mechanisms or in dreadful refuges like this. I shuddered in horror and sorrow as I imagined future scenes of cruelty, of hunger, of misery, of brutal arrogance, of blood-lust, and even of cannibalism that would develop should the fuel last longer than the strength of the workers. The provisions were guarded by men with machine guns.
I leaped away from this dismal place, thinking of taking a swig of whiskey from the bottle in my pocket to recover. I have always liked to drink on solid ground rather than aloft, so I leaned on a wall that ran parallel to a path leading to the underground building.
After some time, I heard some voices from the other side. One was Amanda 's voice! Another was from a man that I recognized as Gould, the powerful first stockholder and owner of the "Businesses of Heating", who said:
(Gould) "Yes, my dear, one cannot choose. If you love me, you will have food and a seat beside the fire for as long as it takes to see where this will stop. Afterwards, we will resume a splendid life."
(Him) "We will resume," I thought. He talks as if it has already started. Fat pig!
Then, he added, continuing his suggestion:
(Gould) "But for now, look at the sun."
(Amanda) "Yes, yes," Amanda responded. "Yes, yes, yes!"
I also looked at the Sun. Its disc was found reduced to a quarter of its size. I held my breath and restrained my breaking heart as I crawled away like a prehistoric animal.
I did not go back to the "Wings for Men" company. I went on roaming and jumping with my device around the "Cetacean" underground building. I laughed hysterically while flying, and when I came across some friend that used the same means of travel, we would talk for a moment in the air, like two happy coleopteri. But when we landed on the Earth, I staggered. With strict vigilance, I looked to find Amanda.
The cold was atrocious.
The Earth ceased its outbursts. It remained rigid and did not show any perceptible movement. As a result, one part remained in the shade like an awful nocturnal dream, while another remained in permanent light like an eye without an eyelid. Still another lived in half-light like a twilight with insomnia.
At first these conditions were believed to be permanent, but the astronomers quickly noticed that the segment of the Earth's elliptical path, from aphelion (when the Earth's orbit is the farthest away from the Sun) to perihelion (when the Earth is closest to the Sun), was much more open, resembling a straight line. This verification was none other than the announcement of a death sentence for humanity and other life, that would occur in a short period of time, as the Earth moved further from the Sun.
We were under the twilight zone. I was clumsily wandering in it like a nocturnal butterfly lost in thought, when suddenly, the darkness that quickly invaded, caused me to look at the Sun. The solar disk did not set, it went away. It was almost the size of Venus in the afternoon.
A rare impulse came over me and like an Indian with his arms up high, I exclaimed, "You go away cherished mother, Ancient Mother."
Without knowing how, I found myself in front of the hole with steps where the mouth of the Cetacean yawned. I was frozen there for a long time. Suddenly, I saw many people that came running and disappeared underground. From afar, I saw a woman I knew running, followed clumsily by Gould, the fat rich guy. She descended the steps without elegance, and the fat Gould followed descending with his fat legs apart like an uncalibrated compass.
Amanda entered, but the "señor" who was purplish and sluggish from the cold, staggered. With infinite pity, I raised the automatic pistol and made it bark multiple times to deflate the fat man whose money and necessity gave him margaritas...
Some came running and yelling "The cold of death! Here comes the cold of death!" and disappeared into the cave… The alcohol thermometer placed in the mouth of the Cetacean dropped with terrifying speed: 40, 50, 70, 80 degrees below zero.
I fell. My last vision was that of a pool of lukewarm and transparent water with islets with very pure green grass. Amanda and I splashed while bringing to the surface the fine mud from the bottom. Little frogs like precious, enameled objects looked at us. From the skies a light descended, a peace and serenity that was like the secret music of the soul.
Very well, let us shake off that apocalyptic omen given to us by Santiago Dabove in his story Finis. His literary prophecy can be counted among the others that have been immortalized by sacred texts, literature, film, and television. So, before we get to know more about the author of today's cuento, I propose we thank the ladies that contributed to making Dabove's work available in the English language.
Let me start by sharing with you that a couple of months ago I was contacted by Alexa Jeffres, a professor at the University of Virginia. She was interested in knowing if she could collaborate with Tres Cuentos. Since I believe that literature is a community construction and life tastes much better with others' help, I said, Yes, Please! We agreed that her students would work on the translations of Latin American literary science fiction texts.
So, first, I would like to talk a bit more about Alexa, who without her interest, this season of the podcast would have been hard to make, or it would have been quite different.
Alexa Jeffress is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia. She has taught translation, Spanish grammar, and introductory Spanish literature over the past six years. Alexa has also published two short story translations, "A Repulsive Happiness" and "The Reversed Miracle", and co-translated two anthologies of poetry, Detroit Doesn't Love Us Anymore and Contemporary Colombian Poetry.
Her dissertation "Writing and Re-writing the Working Class Experience in Barcelona, 1888-1923" focuses on representations of the working class during the height of industrialization at the turn of the twentieth century. Alexa's research interests include: nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spanish film and novels, translation studies, pedagogy, and international education.
On the other hand, the two students who worked on Finis – which I confess is a challenging text to translate – are Nora Charles and Lizzie Suffa. Don Hymel and I were able to bring you today's cuento thanks to their translation.
Nora Charles is a student at the University of Virginia, where she studies History and Spanish. After graduating, she will teach History at the high school level in Nashville, Tennessee. She is also a semifinalist for a Fulbright Award in Spain. In her free time, she likes to hike and play violin.
Lizzie Suffa is a third-year Global Sustainability and Spanish double major at the University of Virginia. She has been studying Spanish since her freshman year in high school, and she is always looking for ways to use her language skills outside of the classroom. She likes to spend her free time reading and participating in meaningful service in the Charlottesville community.
Remember to subscribe to the podcast's mail list. All you have to do is go to our website www.trescuentos.com. Finally, if you find value in what we're doing in Tres Cuentos, we appreciate your positive feedback on iTunes or on any app where you listen to the show, and of course, share your favorite episodes.
Before I read to you what our Spanish collaborator Leo Quiron has to say about the author and the story we heard, allow me to talk a bit about how the world is going to end.
Since I was young, I have been fascinated by science; for a long time, I subscribed to the National Geographic and other magazines and I devoured them as soon as they arrived. My favorite TV shows were the ones that were produced on Discovery and the History channel. So, whenever any news comes out related to what is beyond the exosphere, the last layer of the Earth's atmosphere, I read it with keen interest.
Now when I came across the following article, I could not pass up the opportunity of sharing it with you. The text is called "There are many ways the world could end, but scientists think these are the most likely," written by Dave Mosher and republished in the digital magazine Sciencealert.com in July 2018.
Mosher tells us that several beautiful coincidences allowed humanity to live, evolve and thrive on what we know as planet Earth. Despite our good fortune, everything has its end, and one day our celestial body will be a barren place. However, please do not fret; we have billions of years ahead before that happens -- unless we work together to destroy everything sooner. We well know about human's stubbornness and their eternal competition with each other and with nature.
Indeed, Mosher warns us that, "depending on the vicissitudes of astrophysics," Earth's expiration date "can happen tomorrow or any time in between now and billions of years." In his article, the author presents six end-of-times scenarios that evoke Santiago Dabove, Finis.
First, Earth's molten core might cool. So, Mosher says that "Earth is surrounded by a protective magnetic shield, called the magnetosphere, which is generated by Earth's rotation."
So as not to go into intricate detail and give you a headache, what you need to know is, "The magnetosphere deflects energetic particles that emanate from the Sun, changing its size and shape as it's hit."
The magnetosphere is like a shield that filters out the solar energy we can handle down here, like sunscreen. Mosher gives us an example, "The resulting flood of high-energy particles that slam into Earth's air can trigger beautiful auroras or sometimes disruptive geomagnetic storms." But if the core cools, (Mosher warns) "we'd lose our magnetosphere - and also our protection from solar winds, which would slowly blast our atmosphere into space."
Simply put, our neighbor, Mars, suffered this same calamity billions of years ago, and look how sad he is today.
Second, the Sun could begin to expand. Our Sun is a middle-aged star; that is, it is midway through its lifespan. But when Mr. Sun reaches senility, he will have no more hydrogen and begin to fuse helium. Mosher states, "Such energetic reaction will push the sun's layers outward, and possibly start pulling Earth toward the Sun." Or, to put it another way, we will be pulverized.
Another theory says that instead of being vaporized, the Sun would push the Earth out of orbit, and our cute little planet would freeze. We will end like popsicles or preserved in ice, and, by the time the aliens find us, we’ll be nothing but artifacts to put on display in their museums of curiosities.
Third, and this theory looks a lot like what happened in the story Finis. Just as there are some human beings who go rogue and destroy what they find in their path, there are also rogue planets. As it is above, it is below.
Scientific gossip says that there are more errant planets and, out of course, than there are stars. And it may be that one of those wandering, unwelcome planets, one day, could enter our solar system and destabilize Earth's nice routine.
Mosher says, "A world that's large enough and drifts close enough could even kick us out of the Solar System entirely. (Or cause us to collide with a nearby planet)."
This could result in our billiard ball called Earth ending up on another table and turning from its nice blue warmth to an eternal winter ice palace. Mosher warns, that "Meanwhile, a significant gravitational shove could also make extreme and deadly seasons that alternate between blisteringly cold and searingly hot."
And since we are already witnessing some extreme climate changes, I think we'd better pray that we do not have a visit from a tourist planet passing through our neighborhood.
Fourth, let us imagine a rogue planet hitting the Earth, interrupting Earth's orbit and causing a severe shock. Some scientific research shows that such an event happened to us 4.5 billion years ago. The tale says that a long time ago, "a small planet crashed into a larger planet in the Solar System - forming Earth and its moon."
Fifth. Mosher says the following is Hollywood's favorite "death-by-asteroid." It happened to us a long time ago, too. Hundreds of millions of years ago, Mosher recounts "Asteroids heavily bombarded Earth for hundreds of millions of years after it formed. The impacts were so intense that the oceans boiled for a full year." The only lives that survived were microbes.
Sixth and last. The Earth could pass too close to a wandering black hole. Scientists suspect that just like there are wandering planets, there are black holes that roam around. If one of those bottomless puddles passed through our neighborhood, the milky way, say a small, harmless one, the Earth would be in serious trouble.
Mosher quotes scientists saying that "Beyond the event horizon, atoms might stretch until they're pulled apart entirely. Other physicists have theorized we'd run right into the end of the Universe or end up in an entirely different one." Wow! What a ride that would be!
It brings to mind the TV series The Expanse, developed by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. If you have not seen it, I recommend you do.
But I’d rather not scare you anymore with the end of the world that likely none of us will witness. Those possible endings are billions of years ahead. So, there is no need to stress over it. Better live every day as the most precious you have ever lived.
Without further ado and with far fewer astronomy lessons, I will read Leo Quiron's more literary and terrestrial comments.
Leo Quiron says that he agrees with the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges when he states: "(...) we don't even know with certainty whether the universe is a specimen of fantasy literature or realism."
From Santiago Dabove, we only know one book, La Muerte y Su Traje (Death and His Suit). Apparently, the writer had no intention of publishing his body of work. It was only years after his death that his writings were printed. The fact that this publication exists today, is likely because of his close friends' desire to save Davobe's work from oblivion.
Dabove's style uses science fiction elements from the tales of Hawthorne, deMaupassant, or Edgar Allan Poe as well as dark humor. He excelled at creating fiction that left the reader capable of finding multiple meanings and endings.
Perhaps for Dabove, the important thing was not to fill this world with more words to exalt his ego, but rather to understand for himself a subject that has long been discussed by universal literature: death.
In this episode, we have selected the story Finis, which opens the door into Dabove's style. It is a tale that invites our listeners to think further. But before we spend some minutes analyzing some of Finis quotes and passages, it is best to remember the time in which he lived.
Santiago Dabove was born in 1889 in Morón, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and died in the same town in 1951. His biographical data is limited; we can only add that he was a musician who played the violin.
He also liked to hold literary talks at his home in Morón with his brother Julio César and his friend Macedonio Fernández. With his friends, Dabove baptized the group of literary talks as la triquia, quite possibly as a play of words that refers to a liquor called triqui, as Horacio Salas points out in the foreword to Death and His Suit, reissued in 1976.
In Dabove’s time, Argentina went through several radical and authoritarian governments given to instability and coups. Perhaps the best-known Argentinean political movement was led by Colonel Juan Domingo Perón, between 1943-1955.
As we know, humanity had two world wars. The first from 1914 to 1918, and the second from 1939-1945. It is worth noting that the significant development of nuclear energy and its military use also occurred during the first half of the twentieth century. Therefore, it cannot be overlooked that Argentina also dabbled in investigating this type of energy, with the creation in 1950 of the National Atomic Energy Commission.
It is difficult to speculate how all these local events affected Dabove's thinking and work. But I think that in venturing to write about possible apocalyptic futures, as we saw in Finis, it is clear that the author was well aware of the atmosphere of paranoia, revolution, and death in which the first half of the Twentieth century was embedded."
Leo Quiron continues "In my quest for understanding more about Dabove's life, I ventured into an internet search, but I found little. The one highlight was a document by the well-known literary critic Manuel Lozano entitled: Santiago Dabove, that ferocious creature that went through lightning. Lozano found a correlation between Finis's story and the narrative structure of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Earth's Holocust but in an inverse way. In Hawthorne's tale, the world is consumed by a great fire, whereas in Dabove's story, the world ends due to a progressive distancing from the Sun.”
Leo continues "I was able to find on YouTube, a special program of literary analysis by Jacques Sagot dedicated to Dabove's most anthological short story titled Ser Polvo (Becoming Dust). The analysis of the story make different important references to pieces of art, music and philosophy. The link to this program is in the transcript.
It is also worth noting that the foreword to the first edition of Dabove's book was written by Jorge Luis Borges, with precious personal references to Dabove's texts.
There is no doubt about the richness and deep content found in the story we selected for today's episode. The author's style combines drama and humor that keeps you on hold, and you find a constant search on the question of death and Carpe Diem, both recurring themes in literature. Carpe Diem is, of course, and invitation to live each moment to the fullest – “seize the day!”
A fascinating thing in Leo’s reading was the changes in pace that create suspense, also known as the "McGuffin." Curiously, this term's coining is often credited to Alfred Hitchcock, but apparently, it was first used by the screenwriter Angus MacPhail.
In the book by Francois Truffaut The Cinema, according to Hitchcock, the author explains that the "McGuffin," "is that element, object, or event, that although superfluous, leads the viewer, or reader, to the moments of narrative tension.
In the text Finis, the "McGuffin" would be the task of removing the ashes of the distant relative.
On the other hand, a curious fact that our friend Don Hymel made us realize is about the magnate Gould character. Searching the internet, we found that there was a character known as Jay Gould in US western history.
This man was born in 1836 and died in 1892. By the time Gould died, Dabove was three years old. Still, Gould's insidious fame would have reached the Argentine's ears. Jason Gould was a railroad tycoon and financial speculator. His unscrupulous practices made him the richest man of the 19th century. He was called one of the "robber barons" of 19th-century American capitalism.
It is worth asking whether by baptizing the antagonistic character with the surname Gould, Santiago Dabove is hinting a critique of the capitalist system, or simply that money, still at the end of the world, exerts psychological power over people.
For example, we see Amanda, the woman loved by Prescot, succumbing to the fear of not surviving. Thus, Amanda joins Mr. Gould.
Another example of the psychological grip that power wields over people even when the world is ending is that the poor eat food that leaves a taste of a lamp in their mouths, and the rich eat better. As Dabove put it "The petroleum-based food with no taste was very expensive. Whereas a cheaper version of it, the most sold, caused a revolting lamp smell on the mouths of the poor people that consumed it. One had to pay a high price for a thing that had no enjoyment."
And talking about human psychology, let's go back to the influence that the world's catastrophe caused by a sudden change in the rotation and translation of the planet caused on people.
Dabove then infers that if natural phenomena and time are severely affected, human behavior will too, but in a more frivolous way."
Leo Quiron explains that "The narrator of the prophetic text humorously points out how this situation that looks like the end of the world leads the characters to think of their immediate pleasure. " Let’s remember what Mark Prescot said: "(...)It is not love if it does not leave a footprint on our bodies. Stop hesitating. Let us love each other for tomorrow we will die! (...)"
Leo Quiron remembers, "I laughed while remembering a meme shared by a friend at the beginning of the current pandemic. In the meme, a man appeared begging a woman to give him a chance, and she answers something like: the only way I would go out with you is if we were at the end of the world; after some months into the covid-19 pandemic, he writes back to her saying, hello this is the end of the world, are you going to keep your word? "
Then, in Dabove's tale, the narrator reflects on a poetic and a philosophical reference: "This declaration of love, that smelled of rhetoric from the times of the roman poets (Catulo or Horace), had a profound and decisive meaning now. It seemed to me that Amanda's eyes saw love as an "eternal fact" rather than meteorology or cosmology."
The narrator's style takes us from a frivolous stance (as in the meme that came to mind) into some of Catulo's poetry verses: "Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love, and let us judge all the rumors of the old men to be worth just one penny! The suns are able to fall and rise: When that brief light has fallen for us, we must sleep a never-ending night."
Or Horace's verses in Carminum I (Carpe Diem): "(...) How much better to suffer whatever will be, whether Jupiter gives us more winters or whether this is our last, which now weakens the Tyrrhenian Sea on the pumice stones opposing it. Be wise, strain the wine, and cut back long hope into a small space. While we talk, envious time will have fled: pluck the day, trusting as little as possible to the future."
Leo Quiron continues, "In Finis, Dabove's style intertwines the process of social transformation suffered by humanity, not only in many aspects of daily life such as survival but also in interpersonal relationships. At the same time, it links these elements with characteristics of human psychology subjected to times of crisis. For example, how the end of the world will be when people return to consider in detail how to meet their basic instincts and needs.
By way of synthesis, the Argentine author has led us in this narrative through environments of death. First, Dabove describes removing the ashes of a family member, and then when the text is found, relates another death story. Here, we have the case of a story within a story, like the matryoshkas, the Russian dolls.
And so, each story contains another perspective of death, not only from the relative they are unburying but to the end of humanity. Here death is no longer an abstraction; we see it from the point of view of Mark, an employee of a company that manufactures devices that allow people to fly. In this way, the reader sees the end of the world from the eyes and reflections of an ordinary man. Then, the symbolic death that was seen in the bones that were unearthed at the beginning, now it's before our eyes like, in the "(...) secret music of the soul."
And that is all for today. To close today's program, I will leave you with a quote from the renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Did I mention that I love his work? He has made science so easy to understand! I am watching for the second time his tv show Cosmos. Here is what he says:
"Yes, the Universe had a beginning. Yes, the Universe continues to evolve. And yes, every one of our body's atoms is traceable to the big bang and the thermonuclear furnaces within high-mass stars. We are not simply in the Universe; we are part of it. We are born from it. One might even say that the Universe has empowered us, here in our small corner of the cosmos, to figure itself out. And we have only just begun."
And with this precious piece of eternal yet mutable wisdom, we finalize today's episode. In our next program, we will travel from Argentina to Spain to meet the critical and perhaps prophetic mind of Don Miguel de Unamuno. He will take us to an inhospitable place made by man.
Until the next cuento, adios, adios.
Santiago Dabove. La Muerte y su Traje. Editorial Alcándara. Buenos Aires 1961.
Santiago Dabove. Finis. URL: https://leanoseapendejo.blogspot.com/2016/08/finis-santiago-dabove.html
Francois Truffaut. El cine según Hitchcock. Tercera edición. Madrid: Alianza 2008.
Teresa López-Pellisa & Silvia G Kurlat Ares (Editoras). Historia de la ciencia ficción latinoamericana I. Desde los orígenes hasta la modernidad. Ed. Nexos y Diferencias.
Manuel Lozano. “Santiago Dabove, esa feroz criatura que atravesó el relámpago”.
Jacques Sagot. “Quedate en casa con grandes escritores”. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WI8XOjCnUKk
Horacio. "Carpe Diem," English URL: http://www.negenborn.net/catullus/text2/e5.htm
Catulo. "Poems," English. URL: https://www.cooneyclassics.org/blog/carpe-diem-odes-111-horace
Dave Mosher. "There are many ways the world could end, but scientists think these are the most likely." Revista digital Sciencealert.com URL: https://www.sciencealert.com/8-terrifying-ways-the-world-could-actually-end#:~:text=%20There%20Are%20Many%20Ways%20The%20World%20Could,instead%20of%20just%20passing%20by%20and...%20More%20
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Infados by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
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