I made changes to my book to make it more character-driven and plot-driven, and in the process I took out a lot of details about the history and culture of my world. But social/political/ecological struggle is something that I want to explore through my fiction writing, and for me, worldbuilding is a huge part of it. The history and culture of my made-up milieu is a labor of love and passion, so thank you for following along with me!)
There is a chameleon vampire squid intertwined with your soul. With yours, with mine, and with the souls of everybody you know. As a writer, I do constant battle with it. It speaks to me in the language of my desires, but it is not me. In Meld Resistance and the Gardenpunk Chronicles series, this is characterized by the Meld.
On your television and in your internal monologue, this is characterized by the vision you think you ought to see in the mirror or that which you dream for your own life, the dream, not the reality.
It will give you everything you want, in exchange for everything you are.
What is the Meld: Just the Facts
The Meld is a physical space suffused with psychotropic chemicals in order to keep people docile and happy. The term is also used to describe the chemical mixture as well as the global civilization that uses it. In my series, it is the antagonist culture against which my characters are fighting.
The Meld reduces people’s metabolism and gives them a sense of peace to counteract their unsustainable cravings and desires. It draws people in by convincing them they can have everything they want. Once people are there, it mitigates those original desires but meets the underlying desire for satisfaction at a much lower resource cost than the original desires would otherwise demand.
From a population planning standpoint, it drastically reduces the “resources used per person.” The purpose of the Meld is to ensure that the world remains habitable for human beings.
It is a population control initiative from a globalized government as part of a broader attempt to reverse climate change. You know the climate change death spiral that we all talk about, worry about? In the world of my novels, it’s passed. It’s hit. This is the global government’s response to the crisis.
The Meld pinpoints the root of human-caused climate change as human discontent, spurred on by greed, consumerism and violence. Seeing us as incapable of quickly addressing those problems in ourselves in any real sort of way in the timeframe that needs to happen, it puts a pause on human ambition — a several-hundred-year pause while the climate gets back in order according to artificially intelligent computerized projections.
The Meld is the sentinel at the end of the line of human history. By keeping people from doing stupid things like shooting each other, abusing fossil fuels and using more than they need, by reducing their consumption, by making them happily subservient to centralized technological solutions, it is able to take a serious shot at reversing global climate change when everyone thought that human civilization was not going to survive – and this is why the battle against the Meld is not as easy as a simple statement of intent. Resistance to the forces of mind control is crucial, but how, and where, and how much, are critical questions to answer.
This is important to me, because my “I” is colonized, temporarily and unpredictably, by these Meld-like forces that by almost all objective measures are positive. I want a nice, pretty life, I don’t want too much conflict, but I have these radical ideas that I believe to be true, by which I want to live, that will invariably cause conflict to enter in. My psyche is a battleground, and in my novels I write the inner conflicts, advances and fields of engagement as I see them from above or as I wander through, examining the details and detritus of the aftermath. This is what I write from when I write the struggle with the Meld. If it were an easy, linear struggle for me, I wouldn’t write entire books.
Identity (is the crisis can’t you see)
So I’m more than a little bit insane, like anyone with anything to say, but I think I’m right about this. The chameleon vampire squid is within most of us, but it has so thoroughly colonized our minds that each of us speaks with a single voice – an “identity” – and makes singular statements about who “I am,” what “I want,” wrapped up in this thing. Perhaps “colonized” is too petty a word. I, and you, and everyone, are not without agency; any internal colonization happens because of our own strategic retreat behind ironclad boundaries we draw within our minds: identity.
Because it mimics your heart’s deepest desire, there’s no killing the chameleon vampire squid known as the Meld. It just takes a different form. It speaks to you in the language of your dreams, but it is not you. It desires through you – through us all. Think of it as a consumerist collective unconscious, in the sense that we consume brands and identities, not products and services. It is the elder god of our times. Only the most accomplished mystics might be able to pinpoint and keep it from affecting their minds, and that’s not the conversation I’d like to have. In my past lives I was some kind of mystic. South Node in the 12th. This life, I want to live in the world with everyone, in the impure muck and mess.
Each person has drawn and accepted a particular relationship to the Meld attached to their mind in return for a sense of internal unity when thinking and speaking. Saying, “what I want.” Saying, “who I am.”
We tell ourselves that the Meld doesn’t exist or that it’s irrelevant or even that we’ve vanquished its hold on us – that we’re the captains of our own ships – in order to feel strong. Or we accept certain borders and boundaries with the consumerist social order – we consciously sacrifice certain parts of our human wildness for a sense of self-satisfaction, pride or comfort. These things build a shell of identity that can so, so easily be co-opted by the Meld and its chameleon-esque branding. The Meld looks like what you desire most to be, what you think you are or should be, as opposed to what you are.
Maybe this is what some people call “growing up.” I think that’s an interesting definition for growing up, to stop questioning where you stand and just accept the grip of a dream-mimic that grows and changes as you do, like it’s a normal, okay thing to be partially colonized in the same way for your whole adult life and not to resist – but I acknowledge its possibility.
Why I Write
It is my own madness, my obsessive problematic, that I can’t just draw and stick to clear boundaries with the Meld, being as pretty as it is. I fall under its spell, back up, and push it away, then fall and push, again and again.
Answering the question, “who are you?” would be so easy if I could just be clear, but I need to be true to my own fractured, broken, internally fighting self that feels strongly and desires with the strength of belief something that isn’t myself, like this pretty vision of off-grid community or marriage or constantly-flowing-love-all-the-time. I don’t know where to draw the line against that mimic of my own dreams that promises me happiness and the power to make any of them real, at the expense of…everything that I am, everything I believe in. My locus of agency moved to a visionary dreamland where I do not live – the Meld. Something in my head making my decisions for me, building toward a sweet, cool, safe life of static peace. I don’t know where to draw the line, because this may not be a bad thing. But how do I delineate. The world is heating up; we could all use sanctuaries of coolness and safety. To be the consummate survivor is not a 100 percent bad way to be.
And thinking socially again, do we honestly think that we will all pull our heads out of our asses en masse and stop behaving and desiring in a way that exacerbates climate change – or will it have to be foisted upon us forcefully, by a chameleon vampire squid? Shit, I still eat at McDonalds sometimes, even as I tell myself, “I’ll do it differently tomorrow. I’ll get my life together, tomorrow, but right now I’m so tired, and I’m so hungry and so broke, I’ve been doing so much, and it’s so easy, so let me just go today.” The internal is social-political-ecological metaphor.
Yet, I believe in the fiercely wild human spirit, believe in it to my gut, believe in the struggle and the fight against corporate branding and mind control and oppression of all sorts, soft and hard, no matter what the reason. I am intelligent and adaptable and I could have had any life I wanted, yet I chose to be an artist — to refuse a life of comfort and instead stand and scream to the world, “This is who I am! This is what I believe!” No. This is also a brand, something for consumption, a tool of the Meld. This is also something I fight against. I am not an “artist.” But I have made decisions that look that way. I also sell out, all the time. All the time, for money, for love, for comfort, for peace, decidedly non-”artist.”
To be a fiercely wild human is actually to be a mess, to define yourself and break those carefully crafted definitions, time and again. Self-destructive? Self-liberating. How can humans live in this world with both integrity and peace? Again: this is why I write. This is the series that will consume me for many years to come.