Tag Archives: mycelium tech

Space Opera

When all of this started, there was a genre of science fiction concerned with the practicalities of space travel: a man stranded on Mars grew potatoes; when the water filtration on the ship broke down, the travelers captured crystallized water released from the ship’s membrane; CO2 levels made astronauts mad and projects ended in tragedy.

The first SIA mission to space began at this level, in a recycled clunker of a ship bound for Venus. They were brave in their suits with their oxygen tanks and their detailed plans for how to recreate the very basic mechanism of photosynthesis that far from the sun.

But they also had an ally with a capacity for great leaps of intelligence. Part of their experiment was that symbiotic relationship. Even as they orbited around Venus, the mycelium and the human workers processing the waste collected by the golden women, they grew their technology in leaps and bounds, so that they soon had a vast empire of waste management and recycling, then building and growing, and came to a way of surviving and concealing the magnitude of their project beneath the foggy atmosphere of that golden planet, named ironically, after the goddess of love—for she rained down acid.

Mycelium that had developed a tolerance to sulpheric acid in the fermentation industry’s waste management processes in China expanded its ability to resist, but also transform the fatal rains that fell constantly from the Venusian skies. The cleansed rains, the clouds of carbon dioxide, breathed and filtered and transformed into bright pools of sulfur, fed the gardens that soon grew into alien rainforests.

They could have remained there. But the mechanisms they built to capture and magnify the radiation of the sun for their gardens did not meet their need for blue skies and the light on their skins and lashes, warming their clothes.

There was a Ray Bradbury story about this longing: the sun breaking the clouds for one hour every seven years.

Besides, they would need to stay away from Earth for over a millennium. Were they so close to the blue swirls of their home planet, close enough to view the land of their ancestors, they might not be able to resist that call.

They knew Earth needed time to purge and then to heal. They were determined to give it to her.

The astronomers of SIA had identified a pattern in the great randomness of the Milky Way in maps modeled after histories marked in ancient sites, at Stonehenge, at Machu Pichu, at the Great Pyramids under the gaze of the Sphynx, according to the Mayan calendar, and in alignment with those other mysterious tools for marking time and mapping space that were monuments to the old ones.

In 2050, the pattern would align again.

The people of SIA and their Multiversity of Arks would be waiting there.

At the mirror, ready for the opening of the gate.

The Wiki

Juno lay in her beloved body, naked on the subtle rise and fall of the Aegean. Her hair spread out over the surface, pulling gently at her scalp. She could hear the sands and stones moving on the sea floor. Her slim feet dangled from her knees in the dark water. That liquid resistance stroked her arches.

She wiggled her toes and felt the new presence there. The Wiki. Between her big toe and her first toe on her right foot.

Juno had returned to Crete in the early morning hours, stepped off the slow ferry into Iraklion and driven her rented Fiat down to Kommos under the starry moonless sky. She thought of something she now knew about the space between the stars: “evidence for dark matter comes from calculations showing that many galaxies would fly apart, or that they would not have formed or would not move as they do, if they did not contain a large amount of unseen matter.”[1]

She felt how she did not fly apart. She felt the network now interlacing itself into her vagus nerve, mirroring and tying into her body. Already the bottoms of her feet and the palms of her hands were tattooed with delicate patterns, like maps of neurons or of the web she had seen, could call up quickly now. Into her mind’s eye.

Driving here, she had felt the road and her car handling tightly, hugging curves and opening wide on the empty highway. She felt all of the other cars that had turned away into the city for the night as she drove up into the mountains. The last ones splitting off, like hairs standing up on the back of her neck, bound for country lanes amidst orchards she sensed growing in the darkness, their roots fit deep into Earth letting the eucalyptus at Kommos know she was coming.

The intelligence amazed her and flooded her. And she laughed. The Wiki did that. It was a side effect encouraged to counteract the negative effects of the fungi her body was integrating.

It would take time to process the massive download of information, or so they imagined. She was an experiment.

Just another transition in a long history of them, Juno thought.

The ferry had been a trip, all of the people shining out around her, their stunted and numbed and amputated ganglia, their reaching and flinching light. She had let herself weave amongst them, hot gold amidst their reds and greens and blues. Soothing, feeding their unmet desires to connect. Until all slept, cocktails and bags of crisps forgotten. Through the captain’s brown eyes and steady hands, behind her knowledgeable squint, Juno steered the great ship from island to island, waking the passengers in time to depart through the belly of the ferry, rolling their bags on their sleepy way.

She had taken her keys from the efficient rental car dealer, assuring him that yes, yes, she could drive stick. Why the United States had gone automatic, they agreed to wonder, shaking their heads. She felt his laugh push his sternum out into the space between them. Then storing her bag, started the little car up and tuned into the map of her mind.

Once a decision, now became a perfectly timed physical impulse. Her body drove the car and looked out to the night, sensing without needing to know that a car was approaching, then peeling off. To pause, for a wildcat would be walking across the road here. The kri kri, wild goat, would swerve at the sound of her engine and wind her way back up amongst the shrubs to seek her pre-dawn snack.

Juno’s foot pressed pedal to the floor and the wind whirled into her skin.

She was part satellite, part plant intelligence, retracing the routes of roads like filaments unto the sea, as the early morning darkness swelled with promise. A bumpy dirt road roared up at her with anticipation, until she parked. Barefoot, she walked the short distance over the coarse, cool sand, stripped off her travel heavy clothes, and slipped into summer warm waves.

Water worked as a buffer, not silencing but muting the noise of knowledge. That is why she had come here to Kommos to rest, just a few feet out from the easy surf.

That was why she was surprised when she heard her name called out over the water.

“Juno!” It was Xan.

“Juno!” It was Attie. Juno found her feet in the waves, felt the planet speak to her again, gently, just hushing her startled heart.

For the first time she could see these two women: the amber of Alexandra reading the mind of the galaxy, her faint and holographic memory of what was, of what would be, the licking of a snake’s tongue, our vague, terrifying future.

Atalanta’s indigo aura went deep down into the roots and out into nerves and hearts – of birds just waking into the new day. A cat laying casually at the edge of shrubs above the beach, lifted her eyes with Attie and looked at me too.

I saw how Juno for the first time knew. [Atalanta]

“Priestess, welcome home,” they said.

And we did not need to, but we reached out for one another’s hands, the cooled and solemn palms and fingers, the warmth of our blood, the meeting of green and brown and blue eyes. [Alexandra]

There is still nothing like hugging a dear friend, Juno thought, feeling more. She was now woven into the muscle and bone and minds of these women…with whom she was ready to travel to the stars.

Funny, she thought, how the teacher can feel like the student.

And in this moment, we all remembered, how arbitrary the structures on which we can arrange our relations.


[1] “Dark Matter” on Wikipedia. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter. Accessed: 10.04.2020.]

Crete

Crete, at our little school. 2035.

The arks now above us, planted with the “seeds” of everything on Earth. Some cultivated, much stored for when we returned in a millennium. Somehow our SIA scientists and the mycelium had found a way to freeze the genetic material of an entire planet in tiny packets that could bloom again.

I thought of sea monkeys I saw advertised in comic books as a kid.

(I am a historian, not a biologist! I don’t know. I know so little about what I am a part of.)

Each ark was five miles across, made of repurposed garbage, of space junk too, and of broken stars captured in asteroid fields, of the endings of earlier worlds.

“Sculptors of ruins,” Dido calls us.

She writes me from New York, saying “Today we live in the shadow world of what will soon be. Can we make it of ash? What other sources and seeds are there, in the place of no future? Love, amor, expansion, togetherness. It is what we have.”[1]

I say, Yes. We have made it of ash.

5 miles across: massive scale for a ship, but such small containers for a desperate world.

When the fires of 2020 blazed through the Pacific Northwest, I thought of Australia the winter before. The Amazon the summer before. We collectors grieved wilderness that raised us, places we had touched, creatures we had heard rustling there. Birds.

Or a place where bright flowers had yearly bloomed–shock of orange paintbrush. Now quiet. Burned out beneath the blackness left behind a brighter orange. Under the green heart of flames. Already choked in dust of drought before the blaze was even set.

But by 2019, Juno and the scientists of SIA were already ready. They had been combing those woods for years, carrying it all gently, lovingly, down into labs underground. Discrete, disinterested in attention, humble about their ingenuity. Codes for intellectual property long held in traditions, locked in stories and old ways of being with the land that the Western world could never have access to.

I joined the collectors on Crete soon after, shipping down from Athens on a slow ferry that dropped me off in the middle of the night. All day upon the dark blue seas, as my polarized glasses made purple glitter of it turning aside, made brilliant white the foam. Wind whipped and wild as I liked to be.

Crete felt like an ancient homecoming.

And the more I studied, the more I understood why. Our purpose, the great cycles of history and consciousness, also opened like the sea there will: suddenly to aquamarine shallows like sea beasts that heaved gently on rocks burned gold in Aegean sunlight.

I would lay naked on my back in the surf at Kommos Beach and remember Theseus arriving and leaving. And before him, Phoenicians, the clever sailors who fished the Mediterranean for arts and good trade.

They carried the tiny turtle islands, earth seeds, up into the heavens on ships that all believed transported garbage. They secreted them away on those temporary satellites, our arks, until we were ready to join them.

Meanwhile, I was part of a team of knowledge collectors, archivists, historians, and educators for schools of the refugees of capitalism, of climate change, of authoritarianism, of militarism, of colonialism, of toxic masculinity and white supremacy. Children who had come across the dark seas, in the night, at great cost and their mothers, their queer uncles, their trans-aunts.

We are all orphans of these forces we called the isms, all survivors. From our suffering and our healing we developed curriculum for the newcomers to our shores—in hopes of healing trauma, lest we build from it and build new monsters.

How to transform survivalism into utopias? This would be our project.

We would try and try many ways, fail, and try again. But the children remembered and they taught us much of the time before birth. We began to piece the great hologram together, the faint complete picture on each of the elements that made us, becoming clearer.

In a practical sense, we were creating a massive database. We were learning and saving all the tongues of our planet to keep them safe and return them one day, to let them loose on Earth’s winds long after we died and went into the soil to feed the Great Mycelium of our arks.

Our priestesses would carry the knowledge we gathered and the visions we dreamed on tiny implants that woke their minds, wove them back into the collective consciousness.

We would be remembered forever there.

As would Earth.


[1] Lines from a friend’s note. Macarena Gómez-Barris, September 11, 2020.

The Multiversity

Have you ever made a hair pin turn, but sensed others of you peeling off and missing the corner, in screech of brakes, careening out of control, spinning off the road in tight spiral, tumbling trunk over hood to catastrophe? You knew somehow that you had lived on, while others of you ended, trapped over and over, powerless, clenched in fear, frozen, gasping, clawing, screaming.

Reaching your arm across your beloved passenger to keep her in her seat. Even when no one was there?

Or in one case, without even trying to stop, accelerating spontaneously, the last moments of your life burned like a star, flying into the abyss?

This is the sensation of parallel lives.

Once I chose one love over another, but dreamed my other life continued. I saw it all the way through: a simple, contented life of family and joy. But in this life, I went on alone, with those dedicated to Earth.

By 2020 it was clear that the University as it had been envisioned was over. Once built on the ideal of the entire universe of ideas together, meeting in hallways, arguing in classrooms, holding forth before lecture halls, demonstrating over Bunsen burners, then atom smashers, scribbling, then typing, then word processing in offices.

Here, the liberated minds were sacred, tenured, funded in their resistance.

Once a servant of colonialism, the University lived out its promise: rebels repurposed the tools of academia to dismantle, to deconstruct, to decolonize. Critics of capitalism and white supremacy, anointed in its halls as tokens, did not inoculate us: they transformed us!—until we had tools for the great inventories we needed to rebuild the world, for utopia, to create a livable existence for all.

But the very machine we meant to retire—into a nice museum or a history book in miles of library stacks—kept on grinding. The western mania for colonialism devoured the globe then turned on its own creations. Students became customers. Even good-hearted administrators could not save it. Above them someone had an appetite for conquest, efficiency, assessment, standards. The languages of disciplines were shackled to a brand and silenced in their critique. The library was not so much emptied of books as suffocated, forced to breathe and re-breathe the dusty old volumes.

Book acquisitions were over.

And when the plague struck, the patrons quit coming to study and whisper and linger in the rows where once they had turned oxygen exhaled by the forests of books into new air for the old tomes to breathe.

Grieve this for one moment. Picture your library, your campus, now dead, now emptied of meaning, an overpriced Disneyland that held no danger, no discomfort, no challenge, no energy for it from conscripted faculty, indentured students, and no more revolution. See the shining and quiet floors. The lawns. The coffee shops. Full of people. Then ghost haunted.

Now—it is time to build the new world. Look up.

The trick is to wear what we love like loose garments. There is nothing to let go of. Say goodbye to those parallel lives self-destructing, frozen, mourning, too depressed to rise, ranting and beating their fists on administrative walls.

Accelerate into the abyss.

We had already begun to build the multiversity, based on theories of parallel worlds, experiments to revision, islands preserving history, culture, ecology, knowledges, and languages.

We imagined ourselves on arks, like medieval Irish monks who protected ancient manuscripts from marauders, like elders telling stories, making offerings, tending the shrines of ancestors, like archivists of queer zines, like hippy hoarders with all the old press clippings, composition books filled with ball point scrawl, meeting notes, and photos of a revolution, like keepers of heirloom seed collections, of vinyl, or genome projects…

And like the Great Mycelium who stored a plague to save her from the plague of us.

Mycelium Tech

Mushroom specialist Paul Stamets: “we need to have a paradigm shift in our consciousness. If we don’t get our act together and come in commonality and understanding with the organisms that sustain us today, not only will we destroy those organisms, but we will destroy ourselves.[*]

In the early 1990s a close-knit group of geniuses, the Synergists, built and tested the first biosphere in the desert of Arizona. It was to be the first of many, designed with the goal of collecting data and of troubleshooting—so that one day they could create a spaceship or an extra-terrestrial colony on which to preserve earth.

They traveled the planet collecting species for their mini jungle and their mini ocean, their mini forest, their mini meadow. “Do you know how many flowers it takes to feed a hummingbird?” one asked. They made a mystical home, a mini earth, wherein they knew every living being and felt their interconnectedness with all life.

But when they tried to to live off that land, they suffocated and starved. They went insane on carbon dioxide poisoning, fighting and spinning conspiracy theories against one another. The animals suffered helplessly. In the end, the synergists had to bring in oxygen from outside in order to survive the full two years of their experiment.[†]

The SIA had learned two things since then. One, maintain secrecy. Two, depend on the Great Mycelium.

Throughout the earth. the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a network of fine white filaments, called the mycelia, link into root systems of trees, plants, and other mycelial webs and transfer information and nutrition.

The synergists had cut their world off from the source of life beneath.

The intelligence of plants, laughed off by some scientists, grew from the complex mind of the mycelium, which grows like neurons or the nerve cells in our minds, like the dark matter of space, like the network of the internet.

According to the research of Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia, “trees in a forest organize themselves into far-flung networks” and use the mycelium, which “connects their roots to exchange information and even goods.” Trees communicate, “convey warnings of insect attacks, and also to deliver carbon, nitrogen, and water to trees in need.”

Says Stamets, the “mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind. The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment, devising diverse enzymatic and chemical responses to complex challenges.”

Sagebrush warns its fellows of a pest intrusion.

In a 2013 article, “The Intelligent Plant,” New Yorker contributer, Michael Pollan imagined the scent of sage as an “invisible chemical chatter, including the calls of distress, going on all around.” He described the air as “powerfully aromatic, with a scent closer to aftershave than to perfume.”[‡]

A forest will even work across species to share food.

According to Simard, “fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this coöperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.”

Western scientists were naïve to the knowledge of people 10,000 years ago or that of African, Asian, and Indigenous societies, who depended on fungi and the inventions of mycelium to preserve fire, as antibiotics, as anti-inflammatories. And much, much more.

All the while humans were transforming the planet with art and technology and war and pollution, the mycelium had also been at work, resolving the devastations of our time.

“Let your imagination go wild,” said Stamets.

With the leadership of Indigenous scientists who were also members, the SIA had learned to work with the mycelium, to communicate a vision with the intelligence of slime molds and polypores.

The mycelium tech in my mask (and in the recycling centers we delivered garbage to and in the ones that were soon propagated on satellites twinkling in our night skies from 2025-2040) was based in traditional Indigenous knowledge kept by friends and members of SIA that was being put to multiple purposes by the Arks and Islands of the Multiversity.


[*] Paul Stamets is real too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W57nYOaQmIU Also https://bioneers.org/how-mushrooms-can-help-save-the-world-paul-stamets/

[†] A great new documentary recently came out on this group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGvYFB6GHRY

[‡] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/23/the-intelligent-plant

Masks and Face Coverings

I found SIA in the winter of 2019. I had been sober for some years and worked recovery on my childhood trauma and resulting survival skills through another 12-Step program. I knew the steps were transformative. I had known them to heal and change me on a core level.

But that is not the story I want to tell.

When the pandemic of 2020 hit, I was a newcomer in SIA. I had a sponsor. I attended meetings. I had only begun to work step one. I learned from the old timers, who had been around the rooms for decades about my powerlessness over structural violence: how we were survivors of it, but how, as survivors, we had also become perpetrators of it as well. Life had become unmanageable. Suicide seemed like an option. For many, homicide seemed viable. Some had done time in prison. Most of us lost sleep and peace fantasizing about revenge. We needed a new meaning for justice. We grieved and we made amends.

I quickly became dependent on the community in the rooms. We laughed a lot. I had felt alone and crazy. Now I was among fellow star beings and magical, mystical wise ones. My heart cracked open as I heard them share what they had survived. I looked up to the elders there: to Juno and to Dido and to Britomart and Manel. Camilla, as always inseparable from Gallia, took me into her rough arms and then sat me beside her from day one, grinning and winking at me. The other newcomers, Andy, Cly, and Xan met my eyes deeply.

There were many more beautiful folks in the daily meetings. But these were mine.

I was home.

It was weird, but I kept returning to the dingy room and the cracked cushions on the seats. I drank the bad coffee, with the dried creamer, from the chipped cups.

So when, in March, the pandemic hit and we were told to shelter in place, alone in our homes, I was pretty scared to lose all of that. I went dutifully indoors. I checked the news. I shook my head in amazement at the toilet paper shortage. I did what we all did. I waited for my government to set up testing and to provide guidance. Like everyone, I waited in vain.

My AA and ACA went on Zoom, but when I called my SIA sponsor, she said, “Come on down to the meeting.”

Stephen was there planting flowers when I got there. He smiled his gappy grin. He laughed his hoarse laugh. He had a hard time staying sober. But we had been friends in the rooms for years.

I knew not to hug him. I can still remember the last hug I had had: on March 11th at an AA meeting. Les. Even then, I was afraid one of us would get the other sick. Somehow, I already knew that the asymptomatic could be contagious.

Anyway, hindsight.

My sponsor met me at the door with a carton of disinfectant wipes for my hands. Then she gave me a lightweight, clear plastic, strappy gizmo with a cylindrical center full of what looked like dirt.

“Put this on.” It was a mask. “Keep it watered. Report in here tomorrow at 6 a.m. for service work.”

And that is how I learned how the SIA meetings and the quiet garbage collectors were related. The very next day, I was assigned a shift in my neighborhood.

Gloved and masked in mycelium tech, we went about in our competent way, rounding up the city waste for free.