Sell the Gods, and Raise Hell!
Dreamed 1994/1/26 by Chris Wayan
I'm in a small powerboat heading for an island spanning the horizon, maroon in the haze. On this world, forests run to red and purple--a world of sprawling seas scattered with jungle isles.
The radio crackles on. It's the Inter-Island Authority. "You can't land here! We have a crisis--you could trigger anti-foreign riots!" I know of the crisis--I'm involved. And regardless of the danger, I have to see. Defying the IIA, I sail on in to the beach.
What's happened here is: a young man from another world, a high-tech society, has landed on the island demanding his inheritance. He's a newsman, his family's a news dynasty. But a few years back, the family paper was sabotaged by a group of rich, powerful reactionaries; and one by one the family met with... accidents. The family lawyer liquidated what assets he could, and promised to meet the young man, the last survivor of the dynasty, here in this prearranged place, to give him his crumbs of inheritance.
So his enemies are trying to place agents here: but it's so far from the urban worlds of the Core, so insular, that strangers really stand out.
The young man plans to buy presses and start up the paper again. Small at first, if need be, but he won't be censored. He's a newsman till he dies.
But the natives are restless. The lawyer came early, and left the inheritance in the form of something local so as not to raise suspicion: he invested in tons of fine hardwoods! Precious on many urban worlds: not many planets grow good trees.
But after a year, when the young man didn't come, the islanders needed wood for a great religious ritual. It was too tempting. They carved and polished the rare woods into statues of the local gods! This only increased their offworld value of course, collectors love that tiki stuff; but now, though they agree he owns the wood itself, they insist the images of the gods must not be taken off the isle.
You just don't sell the gods!
The young man insists he must. "You agree it's my inheritance; they're not your gods, just effigies. You can carve other images."
"This is true, but the gods curse those who sell their images. We don't want your death or ruin on our consciences. Can we not offer you fat pigs, rare shells, bonded servants?"
They're trying to be fair. But the interworld exchange value of pigs is uncertain, to say the least! And the newsman wants to start on his press NOW, and damn the gods. "I too have a sacred vow to fulfill--the ancient motto of my tribe. We have sworn it: 'Print the news, and raise hell.'"
I surprise myself by saying "Their gods are real. They have firepower. Maybe it's better to let your inheritance go, and take your chances on pork bellies, or the shell market, rather than be cursed. You can embarrass your opponents by bringing up the destruction of your paper, after all.
"You might even get the new paper funded by the enemies of the Republicans--" Oops! "--I mean, your enemies' enemies."
I just blew my time-travel cover! I called the rich industrialists who ruined his paper "Republicans," but of course that party died generations ago...
But their attitude just won't die, will it? Tramp the dirt down on its grave, and here it is again.
The tiki god of censorship.
Dreams threaten both traditional religion and traditional science. True believers in both camps get upset. My dreams are NOT a product safe to market! And the effect on ME is dangerous too: selling my gods!
What to do? I don't know. The island dilemma is shared by any creative person who wants to do some good but retain their own soul. Tell your naked truth and they misread it; but if you censor or simplify your art to sell (and be more easily understood) you end up debased; and if you slant your art to push your agenda, you end up a preacher, not an artist. It's tempting to just sit at home writing, painting, singing... for yourself alone.
Yet if you DON'T print your truth and raise hell...
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