Excerpt from “A Dark and Hungry God Arises”- book 3 of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series


(excerpt from “A Dark and Hungry God Arises: The Gap into Power – book 3 of the Gap Series, by Stephen R. Donaldson)

[The following bit of futuristic science fiction isn’t terribly long to read but has much to say regarding our own global current situation and condition. It doesn’t propose solutions but is a good reminder of how “stuff” can go from cause and effect to greater cause and effect until “humans” are just pawns in powers they think they set in motion but can never control.]  

“Until humankind came into contact with the Amnion, it was easy to believe that guttergangs would eventually rule the Earth.

In one sense, their roots were as old as crime. “The poor you have with you always,” said Christ, not inaptly. However, he might have gone on to observe that poverty had no meaning in the absence of wealth: where all have nothing, all are equal—and none poor. From the moment when human evolution first stumbled on the concept of having, some individuals or tribes or people had more while others had less. Predictably the disparity bred tension. In due course that tension led to violence—the taking away from those who had by those who had not.

As in all human endeavor, concerted action proved more effective than individual effort: groups could take more.

Gangs of one kind or another became inevitable as soon as having was invented.

In another sense, however, guttergangs were more recent. They were a product of modern mechanization and urbanization. More specifically, they were a symptom of as well as a reaction against the slow collapse of Earth’s social infrastructures.

Because the services of well-meaning but overtaxed communities could no longer feed or care for their young adequately; because educational systems tried harder to control than to excite their students; because transitional life-styles and intense technological changes eroded the ability of families to provide stability for their children; because humankind’s rush to exploit the planet and consume its resources led to a rising tide of poverty which no one could stem; because the fiscal policies of governments were designed primarily to defend the comfort of the few against the hunger of the many; and because, finally, no one could pay for enough police to combat crime: for all these reasons and more, guttergangs flourished throughout Earth’s sprawling urban structures with a vigor unprecedented in human history.

The gangs were starving, loveless, abused, despised, cornered: therefore they fought back. And they were able to fight back successfully because they wrested their survival from the same crumbling infrastructure which had created the conditions for their existence—thereby, of course, hastening the decline of that infrastructure; worsening the state of people who lived within rather than against Earth’s social compacts; encouraging the growth of more guttergangs.

Much like corporations or governments, they bred chaos around them for the sake of creating order for themselves. Creating nothing, producing nothing, they took away what other people produced or created. More than that, they took away the very constructs and compacts which enabled creation and production to occur. They were parasites on the body of human civilization, just as civilization itself was a parasite on the body of the planet. Some cynics argued that they represented the inevitable outcome of humankind’s imprecise moral sense: rapacity and selfishness carried to logical extremes.

Sooner or later, parasites usually lose. They feed on their host until the host dies; and with the death of the host, the parasites themselves starve away. But the guttergangs were too entrenched to be rooted out by anything short of complete cataclysm or absolute tyranny. And the development of the gap drive made their existence more secure rather than less.

Interstellar travel supplied humanity with the opportunity to exploit distant asteroid belts and planetary systems; in other words, with a vast increase of available wealth. Naturally the influx of new resources shored up Earth’s tottering infrastructures—which in turn gave the guttergangs more to live on. By prolonging the life of the host, the gap drive gave the parasites more time in which to spread and multiply; increased the rate at which the parasites devoured the host.

It was easy to believe that guttergangs would eventually rule the Earth.

This entire societal equation was altered, however, by contact with the Amnion. The discovery of a fundamental, insidious, and above all external threat to humankind’s existence turned the tide of history against the guttergangs.

The effects of this discovery were not simple. Obviously the struggle for the survival of the race would take place hundreds or thousands of light-years away, and would be carried on by the forces of the infrastructure. The fate of humankind would be decided elsewhere: the guttergangs would live or die with their host. By the ordinary laws of parasitism, therefore, neither society nor the guttergangs had any reason to change. Yet the knowledge of an enemy they could not see and would never have to fight changed the guttergangs profoundly.

They did not suddenly discover patriotism, of course. They did not put aside their clenched internecine attack on all social structures outside their own for the sake of humankind’s greater good. Nevertheless they were human beings—genophobic to the core. Like patriots and religionists, environmentalists and native Earthers, nations and corporations, politicians and cops, they could not stifle the visceral frisson of their revulsion against imperialism by mutation.

By degrees too small to be measured, too small even to be noticed in the short term, the guttergangs began to erode.

This process took any number of forms. As one crude example: thanks to the Amnion, the appetite of the UMCP for young bodies was as intense as, and inherently more comfortable than, the guttergangs’. Active recruitment by the police gave the hungry youth of Earth a choice distinct from the more passive, as well as more brutal, accretion of the guttergangs.

Or a more subtle instance: hating and fearing the Amnion, the ordinary people of Earth—the natural prey of the guttergangs—had less hatred and fear to spare for those gangs. Therefore in complex, almost indefinable ways the guttergangs began to lose their mystique, their attraction for the lost and disenfranchised of the planet. In comparison to the Amnion, the gangs were perceived as more bearable, more manageable, more normal; therefore less threatening to humankind—and less appealing to humankind’s downtrodden. Over time, no human enterprise could oppose—or remain unchanged by—this kind of perceptual shift.

Slowly across the decades, genophobia united humankind against its common foe.

Cynics saw this turning of the tide as a demonstration that prejudice was the only true survival instinct humanity had left. Less cynical observers had difficulty deciding whether to be grateful or terrified.”


12 thoughts on “Excerpt from “A Dark and Hungry God Arises”- book 3 of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series

  1. Hyperion

    An excellent piece Sha’tara. I would call it prescient vision of the future even though the speaker is relating to the past. But, as we know there is no such thing as past or future, only the everlasting now. A lot of my own feelings about humanity are in this short piece. We discussed our mutual rejection of Fascism and modern pseudo-Fascists as an example. We have gutter-gangs already and they cannot be reduced but they are growing and forming splinter groups within groups and applying their appetites for violence and vitriol in immeasurable ways. I have been in many places where humans had nothing but what nature provided and by comparison to the advanced societies of earth they were the poorest of the poor but they had more humanity, kindness, reverence for natural resources than any human that walked on concrete on the planet. I could go on and on about the virtues of living naturally in small groups versus the horror of modern societies from my personal perspective but it would fall on deaf ears. Those pure and simple people were happy and they are now being slaughtered by those who want to burn their forests and rape the earth for a few dollars to buy drugs, alcohol, highly processed foods with no nutritional value and sex, lots of sex. Guttergangs. Everywhere. An excellent piece and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I need to get a copy and read it.


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for your pointed comment Daniel (I wonder sometimes how you find the time to rattle off those comments and keep them focused and to the point!). Yes, I thought that bit had a lot to say about our current situation, before it jumps ahead of us as we are today to bring in the common threat (the Amnion) that essentially disempowers the guttergangs. As I just pointed out to rawgod, we don’t have (or CANNOT SEE!!!) that kind of threat at the moment so we continue to exploit, oppress, fight each other and destroy our living environment to, as you hint, satisfy our lusts and cravings. Some say Earthians (I still can’t bring myself to call these people human – wouldn’t a human be naturally humane?) are a flawed species which nature will eventually rid itself of. I don’t think that’s the whole, or even the main,, problem. I still maintain that a program is running the species, making it think, speak and act in its mostly senseless ways and it takes much “spiritual” as well as mental work to see through it – to unmask the wizard despite his bluster and threats through his smoke and thunder. The entire species but for the few who by work, discovery or pure chance unmask the Matrix is dutifully following its self-defeating programming. Now why would such a program (an app!) be installed in the Earthian individual mind? There is an answer for that too and I’ve broached it several times but the denial aspect of the programming prevents those who encounter such answers to give them any credibility. What’s that which was said about the truth? (I looked it up again!) “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Arthur Schopenhauer. Unfortunately for mankind, “he” is a long way from engaging the third stage, in fact “he” is still at the ridiculing stage!
      PS: I’ve read March of the Cybrids-23 twice now. I’m “coagulating” a response – hope your patience rating is on a high setting for me at the moment, I’m literally drowning in work and too tired to blog much when I’ve caught up with myself in the evenings… I have to learn how to say “no” and actually mean it! (I’ll post this bit on your blog!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hyperion

        I think if I ramble in circles long enough, I can come back to a point eventually. Unless I forget what my point is, which does happen. I do see the light you shine on the program that runs us and I even sense it at times. Your passion for exposing this insidious part of our nature as well as your well aimed frustration or anger at some of the bugs in this program are teaching points to heed and also inform us in a way that gives me introspection to my own participation in the program. I sometimes feel like the snake shedding his skin. I’m not all the way out yet but someday I’ll leave that empty husk and emerge, still me, but free of the Routines that attempt to control me and reverse my exit. Your fire and intellect are unique and powerful. I think the panic of our current pandemic and the struggle to break free from the crippling malaise of governments and populations is a time your teachings will have more meaning when all the failings are laid bare. Strike while the iron is hot was the old saying regarding the blacksmith forging iron into a useful tool. The iron is definitely getting hotter. This article definitely got through all the protective layers and opened my inner eye to what we are faced with. Rest well Sha’Tara. No hurry is required here.


  2. rawgod

    If such is to be the future of humankind, we may as well suicide right now. A society based of mutual hatred of a common foe means we will never be able to live in peace within a welcoming community.
    History shows us a list of different foes that we are fighting against, from families to tribes to cities to nations to races to religions. None of this speaks to possible futures of love or peace. Doom is our destiny!


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for the comment, rawgod. I threw that out there to see what some people would have to say. Of course Stephen Donaldson is not the first to use the general scenario, that mankind would stop its internecine warfare if threatened globally by an alien force. In this sci-fi, the threat is called the Amnion. They want to introduce a mutagen among mankind to turn everybody into an Amnion-like lifeform. What I was thinking was, what could possibly intersect our current chaotic “civilization” to cause such a situation to happen? What could present such a global threat that all of mankind would unite as one against “it”? The bullshit paranoia re: Corona virus is not going to do it, quite the opposite. Is it possible that nothing, absolutely nothing, could so shock and frighten this species so as to cause it to unite against a common foe? In Donaldson’s Gap series, there were human traitors, pirates and even members of the UMCP (United Mining Company Police) who sold captives and prisoners to the Amnion for mutagen testing. Your last 4 words, methinks, are prophetic: doom is our destiny.


      1. rawgod

        I was just saying if we need a foe to combine against, we are worthless shit. I’ve read a lot of sf in my time, but Donaldson was one of the last. His writing turned me away. Fortunately, I had finished the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, including book 5 of the trilogy. Most of my sf memories are good, lol.


      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Got to admit, Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant Chronicles was tough slogging, yet stayed for months on the NYT best sellers list. Lots of deep psychology involved rather than much action. According to history the people of Earth do seem to rally together from disparate groupings when threatened by a common enemy. We certainly see this in times of war. But yeah, that’s it, they can’t cooperate for peace and that says a lot about their nature (or their programming).


  3. deteremineddespitewp

    ‘Oh Mercy! Custodian. What is it?’
    ‘I am sorry citizen may we come in?’
    ‘Yes, yes,’
    ‘What it is beloved…Oh custodians. Sirs. What is the problem?’
    ‘I am sorry citizen to bear upon this burden. It is your son,’
    ‘Our son? Are you sure,’
    ‘His DNA confirms. He and a group of his friends indulged in Evasion and Peek. It seems one of them had access to Ultra-Drive, forged through the usual patrols sweep to conduct a thrill ride over Sanctioned Planet KG-3. Before The Patrol could overtake and apprehend, they flew in too low into the atmosphere of KG-3 and the inhabitants shot their craft down,’
    ‘Oh no! I work in The Office of Observations and Categories. KG-3 is of the highest level of risk I am aware of the sanctions imposed. How could these-these children evade The Patrol?’
    ‘The Patrols can only be in so many places at once citizen. All adult traffic knows full well the dangers of interacting with KG-3, even the criminal cartels leave it alone. Yet children will take these risks,’
    ‘KG-3. What can be done,’
    ‘We at the Custodian’s Office have been advised by the Rescue and Evacuation Corps they will endeavour to place a deep covert operation to try and seek out your son and his colleagues,’
    ‘But, custodian I can tell from your tone you are preparing us for the worst,’
    ‘It is KG-3 citizen,’
    ‘Yes. Barbarians with a technology. If it were not for the high percentage of them wiping themselves out within the next two of their generations I do believe the Council would be taking the step of Extreme Precautionary Action. One hears these things in the Office of Observations and Categories, since we are the ones who supply the data,’
    ‘Beloved. Our silly, foolish son. Violent, dirty, polluted KG-3 of all places,’
    The custodian hoped the prediction of two generations would be halved. the custodian wearied of having to break this news to parents.
    KG-3. A baleful little place.
    The reason for the Office of Misdirection. Ever flooding KG-3 with signals of ‘No Life’ within at least 500 light years of that blighted world.



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