Those who earnestly push conspiracy theories are occasionally both naïve and grandiose. Their claim to extraordinary insight is sometimes at odds with the intellectual talent they display. Without knowing better, one might suspect their pet conspiracy inflates their self-importance to compensate insecurities.
Believe me, I’m well aware — painfully aware — of how ridiculous I am about to come across. Therefore, despite the evidence of my senses, I will not claim to believe that the Precambrian Conspiracy is in any sense true, however unassailable to logic it may be. My friend professor Robert Furey, who has independent experience of the Conspiracy, has adopted the same attitude. Notwithstanding, we’ve decided that it’s time to share this thing in the hope that other people will come forward and help us reach greater understanding. We have strong reason to believe that there are many of you out there.
Before I explain further what I’m taking about, I need to make a disclaimer about my confirmation bias.
I know a lot science fiction writers; it’s almost as if fate, or some other agency, has steered me toward them. Back in high school, in 1986, I was among a dozen winners of the Oregon Young Writers contest who got to spend a week at Lewis and Clark College at a writing workshop. There I met (and shamelessly imposed upon) veteran author Kate Wilhelm, wife of the late great Damon Knight. When I moved to Seattle after college, I worked in a bookstore through which I got to know many prominent local science fiction writers, and I even crashed their parties. In 1994, I learned Magic: The Gathering and other games from their now-famous creator. My youth spent playing Dungeons & Dragons was somewhat vindicated when I became a coworker to and good friends with the men who would go on to author the D20 System and D&D 3.0 and 4.0. In 1997, I attended Clarion West and met and befriended other prominent science fiction writers. Soon after, I started an epublishing company and have published the work of still more science fiction writers, including Jack Vance and a guy whose fantasy series is now very popular on HBO.
All this seemed to be leading somewhere unusual. I received a clue as to where back in 1994 but I missed it at the time. Maybe I was intended to miss it.
As I said, I worked at a bookstore when I first moved to Seattle. That was 1992, and the store was Half Price Books in the University District. By the end of that year I grew restless, and I left to take a job with a company downtown that published municipal codes. I have a degree in English, and I wanted to put it to better use. In 1993, I became a proofreader and an indexer — and on the side a scuba diver. I also became depressed, and I returned to the bookstore while I was waiting for Wizards of the Coast to consider my application for an editor position.
Something odd happened during that second stint at the bookstore, shortly after local celebrity Kurt Cobain died.
Now, I’m obliged, for reasons that will eventually come clear, to state that the following is emphatically not true. Here’s how I related it to Rob not long ago.
“There’s a huge recycling bin to one side of the store, near a loading ramp — transients used it as a hut until the store began locking it — and I’d go through books we’d rejected for purchase. Most we’d recycle, but some we’d save to try to sell.
“While I was out there sorting, a guy came up the ramp from the parking lot with a box. They do that sometimes — just go straight to recycle, which we tried to discourage.
“The guy looked familiar; he looked like me, twenty years older. Creepy.
“He took one book out of the box and handed it to me and then left with the rest into the store. I was so unnerved and distracted by the guy’s appearance, I almost chucked the book without glancing at it.
“The book was called The Junior Guide to the Ancient Singularity. It came with this little plastic block, shaped like a pack of chewing gum.
“There was a depression in the cover of the book to hold it. I had no idea what it was for.
“I kept the block in a jar with paperclips and other crap. I just found it again a few days ago. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time — this was 1994 — but the hairs rose on my neck when I saw it again.
“It’s a USB drive.”