Chapter 1 of Birdtopia can be found here, in which the narrator, George, finds and identifies a dead chickadee, reveals his crush on Lisa, and drops some tantalizing hints about what life in Birdtopia is like…
Back at my house I went down to the basement and tried working on my nyjer seed bird feeder prototype but just couldn’t concentrate. And, not for nothing, using power tools when one can’t concentrate is a recipe for disaster so I decided not to do anymore work on the feeder for the day. Instead, I started to write this account, in case the Birdlution falters, or, I guess, even if it succeeds, so that someday people will have an idea of what is what like living in a time when birders ruled the land. Maybe I am too optimistic about this writing but I can say that it is rare, in these days of the Birdquisition, to hear people speak the truth about what is going on in our country, and I think that the truth is important.
I can still remember, vaguely, when the Birdlution started. According to the history books, it grew from an informal network of birders that would meet and discuss politics at the sites of rare bird sightings. Of particular importance was the absurdly unlikely New Hampshire Great Tit back in 2018. Birders from all over the country showed up to see that one, and, two days after it showed up, a blizzard socked New England and left hundreds of birders, including my parents, stranded. I, of course, have no recollection of this major happening, as I was left with Mrs. Vertiak, our neighbor, while my parents chased the rarity. No, my first idea that something was going on came a couple of weeks later when I got up in the middle of the night for a glass of water and no one was home.
What I mean is, I got up and walked down the hall and my parents’ bedroom door was wide open. Being only eight years old I got scared when I saw that their bed was empty, and even more scared when I went downstairs and discovered that my parents had disappeared. Being a resourceful child I managed to get my boots and a jacket on and followed my parents’ footsteps through fresh-fallen snow down to the Nolan’s house, where I noticed lots of footprints leading into their house, even though I could see no lights on inside. Standing in the street with flurries falling on me, I figured I should go home because I thought I would get in trouble for being outside in the middle of the night. Then a Great Horned Owl hooted from behind the Nolan’s a couple of times and I had never seen one so I started to slip around back in the hopes of finding it.
It was then that someone grabbed me, one arm around my stomach, one hand over my mouth. I kicked and kicked but caught only air. I can still remember the panic rising from my gut like bile, and I can still remember Mr. Nolan’s voice coming out of the dark, ” That’s just George from up the street. What, do you think the government is sending kids after us?”
I was gently put down and gave my assailant a sharp kick in the shins. Mr. Nolan started laughing then, his deep booming laugh, as the young man who had grabbed me muttered curses under his breath and faded back into the night. Mr. Nolan took me by the hand and led me into the back yard where we listened to not one, but two Great Horned Owls hooting back and forth in the clear night air. “Marvelous birds, aren’t they?” he asked.
I don’t remember my answer, and I don’t remember anything else except waking up the next morning in my own bed and running down the hall to my parents’ room where they were both asleep in bed. So I did what an eight-year-old always does in such a situation: I crawled up into bed with them and made enough noise that they both woke up. Of course, they wouldn’t answer with any detail what they were doing at the Nolan’s house in the middle of the night and I had to be content with the knowledge that they were doing secret “grown-up things” and that I mustn’t ever tell anyone. They also promised that I would never be left alone again…a promise that I think, even then, they knew they could not keep.
What I understand now is that, after the Great Tit in New Hampshire, birders spread back to their communities around the country and started up the local cells of the Birdlution, the basic structure that is still with us today. Sure, there is a lot more of a bureaucracy now but the basic local control of the Birdlution is still alive and well. People can’t build a factory, a road can’t be bulldozed through a forest, housing developments can’t gobble up the land without getting through the local structure first. The Birdlution has harnessed NIMBY-ism and put it to its best use: stopping unnecessary and unwanted destruction of natural resources for unwanted and unneeded growth.
Forgive me a bit of a rant here but this topic is near and dear to my heart. I read a lot, and I think I have a good idea of what life was like in the last years before the Birdlution. There were more cars than people! That makes no sense at all, especially considering that many people did not even own a car! Where I live, in upstate New York, the grocery store would sell apples from New Zealand in fall! When the local orchards all had fresh, delicious, apples hanging from the branches in huge numbers! City centers were decaying but forest and fields were being bulldozed to build new housing developments (and when those started to decay more fields and forests would be bulldozed for more new development)! People would buy food in plastic containers that take thousands of years to break down and throw the containers away, and the next night do the same thing again! It was crazy! The invisible free hand of the market was worshipped like some kind of god, but it was a wrathful and vengeful god that often took away what it gave with that invisible hand. If the birders hadn’t started the Birdlution some other group would have: it was only a matter of time before the rot at the center of the body politic metastasized and destroyed us all.
Sorry about that, but I want people who read this thin manuscript someday to understand that despite the failings of the Birdlution, and there are failings, that what came before was infinitely worse. Anyway, I have to stop writing for a bit, as I have struggled for hours putting what I have on paper, and I have chores to do and a hearing to prepare for before I get up in the dark before dawn tomorrow.
Bi-Sci-Fi, short for Bird Science Fiction, is the blending of two of my favorite things, birding and science fiction. This will, if 10,000 Birds readers enjoy it, become a somewhat regular feature here. So check back soon (within a couple weeks) for the third chapter of Birdtopia!