The original idea for this came to me in 2002. At one work one afternoon, I was seized by the ethos of the rock visions of the 70s—specifically, Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire, although certainly it applies to Rush’s 2112, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Genesis’s “Watcher of the Skies” and similar—and wrote the first version of this in a rush, sending it only to one friend who might understand. Recently I was reminded of that day, so I polished up UE20SSFRO and am posting it here.
I am not a composer, and have not the tiniest desire to make this work a reality. But I love the idea of it.
UE70SSFRO may be imagined as a double LP album covered in eye-popping art, the sort of art made to be painted on the sides of vans. The following text, a libretto, appears as liner notes in the album’s gatefold. The song titles are in parentheses, although I don’t think they represent a complete list of the opera’s tracks. There must always be songs left in potentia.
In the early 22nd century, humanity stands on the brink of its final crisis, social, geopolitical, and ecological.(“Fever”) At the edge of the solar system, two giant alien space fleets, their ships very different in design, appear and head directly for Earth.
The fleets send messages as they approach. One, a flotilla of identical silvery ovoids, is of the Sereneium. The other, composed of junkyard juryrigs, each one different, holds the Zodiac Tribes.
The Sol system, they inform humanity, is at the crossroads of two gigantic ley lines, bands of power which stretch to the edges of the universe. For this resource the two aliens races once fought a war here, millennia before Homo sapiens evolved, a war that resulted in stalemate and never quite ended. Now they have come to submit to the arbitration of the inhabitants: the human race. (“Elucidation”)
The nations of Earth at once quit their squabbling. The heads of state and heads of government assemble to greet the aliens and carry out their collective responsibility of judging between the two cosmic powers.
The alien embassies descend.
The first embassy is of the Serenenium. (“Serenenium Theme”) They are angelic creatures, appearing as humans of unearthly beauty, their bodies technologically altered to cycle through all permutations of gender and sexuality. They live surrounded in eternal harmonic music.
Then comes the Zodiac embassy (“Zodiac Theme”), each wearing armor highly decorated and fantastically painted (The Zodiac Tribes dress in similar fashion to the band GWAR). Their music is driving, harsh, irresistible in its energy.
The embassies approach the old bloodstained polities of Earth—and walk right past them. They search out a young woman named Anna Xing. Anna’s heritage includes all the major racial and ethnic groups of humanity. The aliens announce that their powerful computers have determined she is the wisest of all humans, the most capable of deciding which civilization Earth will join. She will be the Judge, if she is willing.
Anna is so willing. She sees this as a new opportunity, not just for the Earth, but the whole universe. She eagerly relates this to her lover Xrystal, who lives in one of the human colonies on the Moon.
The heads of state and heads of government, flustered at first, accede to the wishes of the aliens. Anna’s decision will be law for all.
Alone for the first time since being made Judge, Anna muses on the responsibility put on her. As she does, she is shocked to see one of the Serene enter her room. They introduce themselves as Daedalus, chief artificer of the Sereneium.
Daedalus has some disturbing news. The two sides are not as composed as they appear. In fact, only the coincidence that Amonsekhmet, the Sereneium Monarch, is in a peaceful cycle at the same time the Libra (Justice) tribe of the Zodiacs is primary among them has allowed this situation to occur at all. On both sides, powerful factions agitate for a return to war.
Daedalus remembers well the first conflict. His progeny joined the Myrmidons, the Sereneium warriors. They died in the Battle of Jupiter, the climatic action of the war. Daedalus has mourned them ever since, and constructed the Great Red Spot of Jupiter as a monument to their memory (“Oh Children”).
Daedalus produces their magnum opus: a crystal, glowing with soul-soothing light. Anna, filled with awe, takes it, holds it before her. She notices that in its heart rests a small jet-black sphere, like a black pearl. She asks what the sphere is.
It is a miniature black hole, Daedalus replies (“Infinity”). If Anna opens the crystal and unveils that black hole, the entire universe will collapse, drawn into it along the ley lines, crushing all that is into a tiny dot such as existed just before the Big Bang.
Which Daedalus begs her to do. End this, they say. This universe is too horrible to be permitted to continue to exist. End it and begin anew. They could not do it—they did not feel they had the right—but Anna is the Judge, and she can and should do so.
Anna is horrified. She refuses.
Disappointed, Daedalus asks for the return of their creation.
Again, Anna refuses. She cannot trust Daedalus with the crystal. She cannot trust anyone with it. She keeps it herself, and orders them to leave immediately.
Daedalus takes the small spacecraft in which they came and, despairing, flies into the heart of the Sun (“Helios’s Chariot”)
Anna, burdened further, talks for a time with Xrystal on the moon, then tries to sleep.
The day of the tribunal comes. Anna is feeling the weight of her responsibility, but Xrystal reassures her, saying that she knows of no one wiser than Anna.
The two sides arrive and make their cases. Each side tries to persuade Anna that the Earth should join them, adopt their way of life, and give them dominance over the power of the ley lines.
Amonsekhmet comes forth to speak for the Sereneium. Their race has developed in unity, finding bliss and ecstasy in beauty and the contemplation of the universe. The Serene spend their days in meditation, group dancing, and song. Their is no pain among them, no strife. Amonsekhment paints a wonderful portrait of life in the submarine Sereneium cities, giant bubbles that float among the marine life beneath the ocean surface, protected forever from whatever storms might rage above (“My City(No Storms)”).
The Zodiac Tribes come forth as a horde. Their race revels in dichotomies. They burst with physicality, having no need for words that are not reflected in empirical reality. Orgies and combat are alike to them, ultimate pleasures in visceral form. As they sing their case each tribe, from Aries to Pisces, has a verse to declare themselves, each remains defiant, shaking its fist in front of their brethren and the universe, but in the end they all come together to extol the glory of the Zodiac way (“Twelve”).
Having made their respective cases, the two sides begin to lash out at each other. The Sereneium condemns the Zodiacs as pain incarnate, misery infinite. The Zodiacs in turn accuse the Sereneium of having stagnated unto living death. The argument escalates, and is about to break into open violence right there until Anna separates them, declaring she will not make any decision unless they stop.
Then The Judge withdraws, unsure of what to do.
Anna is besieged from all sides. She is procrastinating making her decision. At times she comes close, then changes her mind. Her fellow humans bombard her with advice, varying voices arguing for every option and for none. She confesses her fears that the two sides will reject her judgment. She keeps putting it off, but she knows everyone is losing patience.
Xrystal thinks she should come to Anna, be by her side. But Anna is afraid of what could happen. Proximity to the Judge is dangerous. She tells Xrystal to stay on the moon where it’s safe.
Unknown to Anna, time is about to run out.
Amonsekhmet changes to the next physical form in the cycle. Engorged with testosterone, they go from restraining the Myrmidons to taking their place as their chief (“March of the Myrmidons”).
Simultaneously, the Zodiac sidereal term shifts. Libra predominance gives way to the Scorpios (“Scorpio Rising”). The Scorpios cry havoc and lead the hordes forward.
The war is on.
At that moment, the moment the two fleets move to attack each other, the moon is between them. Earth’s satellite is caught in the crossfire and reduced to rubble. No one could survive the disaster (“Battle of the Moon Suite: Movement 1:Bleeding Moon/Movement 2: Gibbering Moon/Movement 3: Waning Moon”).
Anna watches the moon’s annihilation. She knows Xrystal is dead. She retrieves Daedalus’s crystal and sings one last song (“Infinity (Reprise)”). Mad with grief, she unveils the black hole and destroys this universe that another, perhaps better, might be born.