By Marcus L. Rowland
Art by Dan Smith and colored by Phil Reed
"..who is this Klono, by whom you were swearing a while ago?..."
"...a combination of Noshabkeing, some of the gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans, all three of the Fates, and quite a few other things as well... He's got so much stuff - teeth and horns, claws and whiskers, tail and everything - that he's much more satisfactory to swear by than any other space-god I know of."
-- Grey Lensman (chapter 2)
...These deities are completely dependent on their believers, their very natures sculpted by the fabric or substance of faith and thought... But although they depend upon their followers, their powers and existence are still quite real.
A GM could make this the test for sentience - the ability to create and power a god!
-- GURPS Religion (pp 24)
The Real Old Time Religion
Traditional Filk (SF folk song)
author of this verse unknown
(Tune: "Old Time Religion")
Give me that real old time religion
Give me that real old time religion
Give me that real old time religion
It's good enough for me!
How the hell can Klono manage
Not to do himself some damage?
But with all those weird appendage-
-es he's good enough for me!
Klono worship seems to be the nearest thing there is to a universal religion in the Lensman universe. He's the god spacemen and Lensmen swear by, not just on one world but throughout Civilization. Some even carry icons and statuettes of the god. He has rivals, of course; for example, Valerians feel that Noshabkeming is better, since his followers are more devout. But Noshabkeming's worship is confined to a few score worlds; Klono's name, and the practice of swearing by him, has spread through two galaxies.
Klono differs from previous gods in three important respects; sheer number of believers (here "believer" is defined as someone who has heard of Klono to the extent of swearing by him), the quality of their minds, and the fact that many are telepaths.
Civilization includes a (literally) astronomical number of member worlds: ...in the First Galaxy alone there are over one hundred thousand million suns ...each sun has, on the average, something over one and thirty-seven hundredths planets inhabited by intelligent life ...about one half of these planets then adhered to Civilization...?
-- Children of the Lens (Chp. 28)
It is implied that most of these worlds have populations at least as large as that of Earth. Many of these creatures will not initially have anything resembling religious concepts - for example, it has been suggested that in humans religion originates from the fact that children are dependent on their parents for the first years of their lives; humans are therefore disposed to believe in a higher power - but as their spacemen and Patrol officers mingle with off-worlders the idea will undoubtedly spread. Even if they don't take religion seriously it is likely that they will pick up the habit of swearing, and thus come to know of Klono. Spaceal, the spaceman's argot of Civilization can probably take a share of the blame: "...a language which, except for its highly technical aspects, is basically and completely profane, obscene, vulgar, lewd, coarse and foul." (Masters of the Vortex (Chp. 12))
To swear by Klono is to acknowledge the existence of the concept of Klono, and thus prepare the ground for belief in Klono. In the Lensman universe many of those who swear by Klono are Exalted (L29), far beyond their species norm in intelligence, physique, and psychic ability: at the end of the Boskone war Earth alone graduates roughly a hundred Lensmen a year, and most other worlds of Civilization do equally well. Moreover, they are simply the peak of a selection process in which even the rank and file of the Patrol are superior to most civilians. It should also be remembered that the Patrol isn't the only career that will lead Exalted humans and aliens into space; there are also the civilian space lines and thousands of multi-system commercial and academic organizations.
LET THE POWER OF KLONO INTO YOUR LIFE!
Since the dawn of Civilization thousands have owed their lives and fortunes to the intercession of KLONO. Wild Bill Williams was an unsuccessful asteroid miner, dogged by pirates and claim jumpers, until he bought a LUCKY KLONO STATUETTE; on his next mining trip he found a meteor worth FIFTEEN HUNDRED CREDITS, and went on to make a series of MASSIVE ORE FINDS. Vesta of Vegia was a lowly translator until she learned Spaceal and began to SWEAR BY KLONO; within weeks she WON 1,762,810 CREDITS and BROKE THE BANK of Club Elysian on Chickladore, and went on to become a PROMINENT VEGIAN BANKER. Kimball Kinnison is known to have SOUGHT KLONO'S INTERCESSION many times in his career; today he is GALACTIC COORDINATOR! Now YOU TOO can own a LUCKY KLONO STATUETTE, identical to those belonging to many FAMOUS PERSONALITIES AND CELEBRITIES! Send a check or money order (no cash or stamps please) for a mere Five Credits to LUCKY KLONO STATUETTE, 934 Strata Towers, Dublin, Tellus. Money back if your fortunes have not improved within 28 days of receipt of a LUCKY KLONO STATUETTE. Offer void where prohibited by law - handling charges may apply in the second galaxy - Mars residents add 1 cento sales tax
Something more is needed for true belief in Klono to take root; events which demonstrate Klono's power, or his intercession in the affairs of men. In this respect it need hardly be mentioned that no adherent of Civilization who mentions Klono throughout the Lensman series is killed; moreover, that many of them repeatedly survive seemingly inevitable destruction, often by means which anyone other than Mentor might classify as sheer luck or a miracle.
Lensman Masters abandoned his ruined DeLameter and looked for a way out of the warehouse. Behind him a concrete wall, in front four thought-screened zwilniks were blasting away the last of the crates that sheltered him, overhead their ship jammed the ether and thought bands for parsecs around. No way to get help, no escape route. "Great Klono! How do I get out of this one?" he gasped, ducking for cover as another crate exploded... and one of the obsolete blasters inside landed at his feet. No power pack - but there was an old-fashioned mains socket only feet away, and he could see some recharging leads in the smouldering crate. He threw another blaster to one side, the zwilniks firing towards the noise it made as it landed, rolled and grabbed some leads, ducked back behind the crates and lunged for the socket, saw the "recharge" light come on, and started blasting.
Four seconds later it was over, the last of the zwilniks dead. "Klono's golden gills!" he panted, binding his most serious burns and salvaging uniforms and more useful weapons from the bodies. With telepathy and the ether screened they had to be relying on visual communication. One of the zwilniks looked a little like him, with luck he could fool their ship into landing. . .
While the precisionist minds of Second Stage Lensmen consciously reject the possibility of intervention by Klono, some small fragment of the subconscious may retain the impression that the god has helped. Ordinary Lensmen, with less focused will, are much more likely to retain such impressions. Normally this tiny trace of credulity would have little or no effect, but the mind of a Lensman is so powerful that it must surely have some measurable effect upon the universe. It may be tiny, but it's there.
The third factor in Klono's favor is telepathy. Lensmen routinely exchange thoughts telepathically, with many subtle contextual overtones accompanying the main message. There are many incidents of more intense two-way connections, usually as part of a developing romantic relationship. All help to spread knowledge of Klono across planetary and species boundaries. More importantly, telepathy is undoubtedly responsible for circumstances in which hundreds or millions of powerful minds may simultaneously think of the god. During the Boskone war Kimball Kinnison found it necessary to link to thousands of other Lensmen on several occasions; more than a million Lensmen participated in his wedding ceremony by this means. The final battle against the Spawn of Boskone was largely won by the massed minds of all of the Lensmen of Civilization, directed by a fusion of the Kinnison family. Even the tiniest possible iota of that immense mental power must surely suffice to finally create the god, if it is possible at all.
It's notable that the destruction of the Spawn of Boskone also marks the moment at which Mentor and the other Arisians withdraw from the Galactic stage, claiming that their pupils will now be able to excel them. Could this mean that Civilization has now passed its final test, and created its own deity?
QX... So... He's A God...
"Let's go through this again. What you're telling me is that as you prepared to take out the zwilnik base's force field generator it was spontaneously overloaded by a freak ether storm. You used the distraction to get past the outer defenses and into the command bunker, where you found the zwilniks shooting at shadows and each other. By the time you'd mopped up and secured the base there were three zwilnik survivors, two of whom are still in comas and the third apparently a raving lunatic who keeps babbling about tentacles with claws. QX so far?"
"QX. Oh, and we found some hoof prints in the dormitories; didn't match any of the species in the base, and the chest of the Jovian we think was running the base was crushed, with a hoof mark that matched the tracks."
"Hmm... Get your reports out to Kinnison, and another forensic crew into that base. There's obviously something we're missing..."
If Klono exists, how does he shape up as a god? His origin suggests many of the answers; irrespective of his original worshippers on Corvina II, this manifestation has been created mainly by the beliefs of spacemen, so it's likely that space will be his main sphere of influence. As originally described he seems to be an all-purpose god, but in his popular usage he functions primarily as destructive Fate. If something doesn't work Klono has disabled it; if someone or something is to be condemned, Klono is asked to take it. He is always described as an animalistic God, and his attributes are inexorably linked to his physical form. This is the aspect that is most likely to remain unchanged. He is a huge beast, with an unspecified number of limbs, claws, and other appendages, most of which seem to be made of metal. A case could be made for associating these attributes with all or any of the traditional godlike spheres of influence. For example, his bull-like features might lead to an association with storms; since he is primarily a God of space they would most likely be Ether storms. With a broader base of worshippers he might be a less specific force present in the hurricane, the nova, the runaway atomic vortex.
Once Klono exists he is likely to realize that almost all his worshippers are from Civilization, with a sizeable proportion members of the Patrol. If Klono wants more intense worship it's them he'll have to impress. Helping the Patrol in its fight against zwilniks and other enemies is an obvious possibility, and fits in nicely with his role as a god of fate and destruction; if you take on the Patrol you're probably fated for destruction...
It should be apparent that Klono has a vested interest in the continuation of warfare, piracy, crime and other disruptions; with peace the Patrol might be run down, and there would be fewer opportunities for his invocation. They would still exist - everyone swears occasionally - but there would probably be less emotional intensity behind it. Nevertheless Civilization is his obvious ally provided the Patrol does not attempt to limit his power.
The Spawn of Boskone and other enemies of Civilization should be Klono's enemies, but in practice they are authoritarian organizations which might find it easier to cope with the idea of an active deity. Where Lensmen might try to control Klono, their enemies might think of appeasing him and trying to gain his favor; perhaps by adopting his worship as a state religion, or sacrificing innocent lives to ether storms; they may even think of sacrificing entire planets. In the God business old alliances may sometimes take second place to someone who can provide a captive audience of several billion worshippers, or several billion sacrificial victims. It would be ironic if Klono was created by Civilization but became yet another enemy...
"Looks like he's taking the bait..." Lensed Kit Kinnison, as the ether storm closed around Goodman 12C. "I'd give it another forty seconds before he realizes that there's nothing down there but millions of psionic broadcasters, by then he ought to be fully materialized. Negaspheres, stand by, stand by, on my mark ten... nine... eight..."
One final possibility: even if the massed minds of the Patrol cannot create Klono, it's entirely possible that someone could fake his existence. The Patrol has all the technology needed, so do many of their enemies. Why anyone should want to do so is a good question; finding the answer could make an excellent adventure.
* * *
Special thanks to Dave Langford, Roger Robinson and Gharlane of Eddore for help tracking down references to Klono.
Article publication date: March 10, 2000
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