"Where is everybody?" That's the question physicist Enrico Fermi posed to his Manhattan Project colleagues now 70 years ago. They knew what he meant. Decades of reaching out to intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe, and no response. Zero. Nothing. A fact which remains true today. Mont Babel sling-shots off the Fermi paradox using the opposing forces of father and son. Jim Benedict's a humanist, a man of the word, his son an engineer who's bored by Shakespeare and likes the NFL. "In the beginning was the word. In the beginning was the Big Bang: two party bumper stickers of our current malaise," writes Jim Benedict. Father and son rarely communicate. If they do, it is by email. What brings them together is the lovely Iris Doubt, Tom Benedict's south African geologist girlfriend, one of the Ariel School children who claimed to have been visited by aliens. Now working in Canada, she spends her free time as invitee to UFO conferences and as investigator of impact craters, one of which is l'oeil du Québec, Mont Babel. Macrocosm meets microcosm in Mont Babel, quantum mechanics and astrophysics, neutrinos and black holes, raising questions about perception and consciousness, heaven and family peace.
Mont Babelfeatures an Introduction by Don C. Donderi, author of UFOs, ETs, and Alien Abductions: A Scientist Looks at the Evidence
About the authors
Keith Henderson has published five other novels with DC Books, The Restoration (1992), The Beekeeper (1990), The Roof Walkers (2013), Acqua Sacra (2016), and Sasquatch and the Green Sash (2018), political essays from when he was Quebec correspondent for the Financial Post (Staying Canadian,1997), as well as a prize-winning book of short stories, The Pagan Nuptials of Julia, 2006). He led the Equality Party during the separatist referendum of 1995, taught Canadian Literature at Vanier College for many years, has sat on numerous boards in Anglo-Quebec including ELAN and the AELAQ, and is currently President of The Special Committee for Canadian Unity. He is completing a critical autobiography with special focus on the works of Edith Wharton.
Keith Henderson's profile page
Don Donderi is a citizen of the US and Canada and has lived in Montreal since 1962. He entered the University of Chicago at age 15 and graduated with a BA in 1955 and a BSc in biological psychology in 1958. While earning a PhD in experimental psychology at Cornell University he worked as an applied psychologist for the IBM Corporation, developing navigation displays for the B-52 bomber. He was a member of the Department of Psychology at McGill University from 1962 to 2009. He served as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at McGill from 1975 to 1978. In 2013 he published UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions: A Scientist Looks at the Evidence (Hampton Roads Press). He is a Principal Consultant of Human Factors North Inc., a Toronto-based ergonomics consulting company which he co-founded in 1982. He lives in Montreal.
Excerpt: Mont Babel (by (author) Keith Henderson; introduction by Don C. Donderi)
Blame Leeuwenhoek. Or maybe Huygens. Of course, there were lenses before 1670 - and not just Dutch. But never so fine, so accurate. Antonie van L., the first to see "animaculae," as he christened them, the organisms of the unseen, "so cute," he said, his microscope man's tool for delving into the microcosm, ever smaller, ever more divided. We know where that led. My engineering son informed me, rather instructed me, as he often took pleasure in doing. I'd educated myself (and him) in the humanities, and I've concluded this was his way of paying back. Sons do that to their fathers, no? Re-educate them. Pay them back. I'm told it's normal.
I took Tom's arguments seriously. How not, backed as they were by the whole weird, atonal orchestra of modern science: the drive for smaller and smaller, not just germs or "animaculae" - atoms, protons, electrons, in turn, sliced, diced, chopped into quarks, neutrinos, positrons, bosons, the entire fairyland of physics.
Tom worked in nuclear energy, so he knew the subject. He once toured me through the
Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, a giant nickel-mine filled with 300 million dollars-worth of Canadian government heavy water, deuterium, the substance of choice for detecting elusive neutrino oscillation. Success, some years back. Even a Nobel prize, though not for him. His job had been to supervise the flooding.
Did I know that at the speed of light, the middle of the sun's nuclear inferno ejected neutrinos? Did I know billions passed through our bodies by the second - passed right through the spaces between, "like bullets through a swarm of bees," he said, since all matter was latticed and holed like Swiss cheese. Life was not what it seemed. The strangeness of the infinitesimally small, infinitely estranging, too, I remarked at the time, since that world had nothing to do with how I lived or perceived the things around me. I said as much, that his
particle physics was like asking me to live inside a Van Gogh painting. Maybe it was "Starry Night" I was thinking of, though I realize those lovely, violet interstices are vast, not tiny. Tom replied that if I preferred living in a world of anthropomorphic sentimentality, that was my choice, but that Van Gogh's madness was actually closer to the truth than I was.
Truth. For Tom, that was a big word, not one he much liked, especially when it came from me. "Truth is relative," he argued, "not absolute the way you think. There's nothing absolute."
"Not even absolute zero?"
"That's different, and you know it." "OK. OK...."
Tom reversed Pascal's wager. He put his money entirely on reason. He didn't know if it could ultimately comprehend the universe, but it was the best we had, and its highest expression was math. Pure, incontrovertible math: numerical observation, numerical prediction. Everything properly empirical corroborated the disciplined mathematical imagination. Isaac Newton, Einstein, Niels Bohr, Edwin Hubble, Carl Sagan, these were his postmodern disciples, the apostles who'd plotted the outer reaches of truth, insofar as Tom would admit to truth. "Forget God," he'd tell me. "You've been poking around that corpse for years. Let it go." In the final analysis, my son's final analysis, God was unnecessary.
"Explore the prickly edges of Science and Religion as Jim Benedict is unexpectedly invited by his estranged son Tom, to meet a beautiful geologist, famous in the UFO scene since her own childhood close encounter. Seeking reconciliation, Benedict reluctantly contemplates the possibility of alien visitations through conversations with Iris who shares her impressions of the extraterrestrial visitors as non-interfering, discreet/discrete masters of 'existential decorum'. In their quest for knowledge, the young scientists scale philosophical as well as geological heights, the Stratosphere of Las Vegas, and plummet into sinkholes, both emotional and volcanic. An intellectual tour de force worthy of Umberto Eco, this novella will fascinate the reader with its dazzling bricolage of poetry, philosophy, ufology lore, and esoteric history of Quebec."
-SUSAN J. PALMER, McGILL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES, AUTHOR OF ALIENS ADORED: RAEL'S UFO RELIGION (RUTGERS UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2004)
Other titles by Keith Henderson
Sasquatch and the Green Sash
The Roof Walkers
The Pagan Nuptials of Julia and Other Stories
And Other Stories
Pagan Nuptials Of Julia (Hardcover)
And Other Stories
Moosehead Anthology 7, The
the Struggle against UDI
The Referendum Years