May the Blue Flame Burn Brightly in You!
Arthur C. Clarke famously observed that any science that is sufficiently advanced would be indistinguishable from magic. In the world of Universe Gun, that role is played by the alien satellite called The Life Star. Much of the technology in the strip is based on current research, and obeys known principals of physics and engineering, as I discussed in last week's column. The Life Star is the alien "other", so far advanced that its artefacts are like mystical talismen, strange like Clarke's monolith in 2001, able to produce magical results with the thinnest veneer of pseudo-scientific jargon to cover it. And like in pretty much everything I've written, it's powered by orgone.
A Brief History of Orgone
What is orgone?
In our world, it was a term coined by Viennese psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich in the 1950s. Reich had perhaps rather wisely observed that in classic Freudian psychotherapy, the patient could talk and talk until they were blue in the face without ever really clearing up their issues. He had developed the alternative of Primal Scream Therapy, in which the patient relives the traumatic events that haunt them and release the negative energy stored in their body via screaming. This cathartic release leaves their psychic "membrane" free from "scar tissue". It breaks down character armour - old emotional wounds stored in the muscles as tightness and stiffness. Reich described this flow of energy through the body, similar to Chi or Prana, in terms of Orgone energy. Orgone was a bit sexier, being related to the individual's orgiastic potential, or ability to orgasm freely. The general tenor of Reich's theories were still quite sensible - that bottled up or repressed feelings could be harmful. The 60's rolled on, and orgone became associated with vaguely permissive massage therapy and hip pop-psychology.
Reich's theories start to become of much more interest to science fiction writers like me when he developed the orgone accumulator, a box consisting of alternating layers of foil (conductor) and plywood (insulator). A user could sit in this box, and it would sort of amplify and clean their orgone field, leaving them with a vague sense of well-being? Jack Kerouac describes using one in On The Road. Whether there is hard evidence of its effectiveness or not, the concentration of biological energy in something similar to an electronic capacitor makes for pretty cool idea-fodder. It's not a huge jump to imagine some kind of 60's superman charging up inside his pyramid shaped device while talking grimly about super-chakras and orgonic frequencies.
It gets even better when Reich developed the practice of Cloudbusting. He claimed that using a device he could affect the weather and cause cloud formation through the manipulation of orgone. Kate Bush fans may remember the song of that name, and the video, which re-enacts Reich's arrest by the FBI for transporting illegal cloudbusting equipment over state lines. He had actually convinced the FBI that he may have been able to affect the weather using stored sublimated sexual energy? What a dude! No wonder I've been obsessed with his work!
The Physics of Orgone
I've always envisioned my sci-fi version of orgone as a optically pure blue light in its radiation form. It can be condensed into a liquid form, which is incredibly pleasant, invigorating and reparative, and somewhat addictive.
Exposure can induce superpowers, in the form of direct mental manipulation of physics variables.
For example, Coriolis Boy can manipulate angular momentum, giving him an awkward form of telekinesis where he can spin objects.
Our own laws of physics can be described by a set of constants - the Gravitational Constant, the Permittivity and Permeability of Free Space, and so on. These give rise to derived constants such as the speed of light. Our own universe's constants appear to be very finely tuned to produce lots of carbon, which is very nice for us life-forms. Change any of the constants, and you would get a universe that behaves differently. Setting the Permittivty of Free Space to zero would have the very drastic effect of preventing electromagnetic waves from propagating at all.
In Universe Gun, I've expanded this to include the Permissivity of Free Space a slightly naughty sounding variable that determines how readily orgone can flow. It was nearly zero, the Life Star impacted with our universe in 2006, and increased the Permissivity of Free Space, thus allowing orgone to build up and flow and do its thing. So there were no superhumans before that date, then there suddenly were. The human nervous system generates small amounts of orgone. The Earth's atmosphere can store it (in reference to Reich's Cloudbusting). Some artifical accumulator batteries from the Life Star can store it, but human technology hasn't caught up with those capabilities yet.
A Rainbow of Flavours?
Why blue? Mysterious energy always seems to be blue. The Tesseract in the Avengers movie and the Ninth Ray in John Carter both share the exact hue that I'd associated with orgone all this time. Colour is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, with red photons possessing about half the frequency and energy of blue photons. Simply heating an object makes it give off photons of all kinds up to a certain energy, depending on its temperature. Thus an object will glow red hot, then yellow hot emitting red and green light, and finally white hot, emitting across the entire visible spectrum. Blue light, which emits only at the high energy end of the visible spectrum is more exotic in comparison. A blue flame denotes something cool and unnatural, engineered by science.
Speaking of colours, while normal blue orgone exposure is often wild and unpredictable, Red Orgone, as used by the Martians, is a much milder substance. This orgone-derived food additive was developed by the Great Database to consistently induce mild super-intelligence in those that consume it. It's not a million miles from current smart drugs such as GABA blockers, compared to the physically impossible consequences of standard blue orgone. Incidentally, unlike Kryptonite, there is no green or gold or any other type of orgone in my fiction. Yet.
That's orgone for you. More will be revealed of course, within the pages of Universe Gun!
See you in seven, seekers of the strange!
Dr Mike 2000, 07 Feb 2014