for your delight at reading…

Chuck Francisco of Pop Kernal called Book I of The Eterna Files, by my very dear friend and business partner – Leanna Renee Hieber, “the Empire Strikes Back of Victorian paranormal gothic”.  I have described her work in reviews and on panels at conventions as being located four blocks west of the intersection of Poe and Stoker. Her work and many conversations with her have helped me make my own writing and thinking a bit more accessible; I have a tendency to range cerebral.

Ms. Hieber is a diligent and skilled crafter of characters you’ll want to include among the circle of your fictional friends. It is they who guide you as they make their way along the boundaries between this world and a stranger one. The ripples on the veil are not caused by a night breeze but the tendrils of death and dark fates.

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Book II, titled Eterna and Omega launched today. The privilege of discussing and reading parts of it before the release was mine but it is now something you can share. I gladly and strongly recommend buying a copy. You may not be as certain about strange sounds around midnight after this worthy tale.

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The Return of Strangely Beautiful!

Good People,

Permit me to (re)introduce you to a very important book. If an earlier addition of Strangely Beautiful is on your shelf, you’re in for the special treat of new content. If you’ve not had the pleasure of reading this tale, you are invited to make a purchase of it today. Once it arrives, I’m certain you will enjoy the time spent with Leanna Renee Hieber’s finely crafted and much beloved characters.

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The unique and original creation – Percy Parker – features in this work by a true pioneer in Gothic & Gaslamp fantasy. Miss Parker is, in a sense, an outcast from birth but who among us hasn’t felt the same way some point in our lives? She and Alexi Rychman take center stage, surrounded by mystery and almost Poe-like goings-on.

If you’re a fan of such film and television series as Crimson Peak, Ripper Street, and Penny Dreadful than Strangely Beautiful must adorn your attention and library.

You can read more here.


This post is, of course, utterly share-able.

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3rd Quadrant, Sector 8023

If it hadn’t been for the blizzard this post would have been a few days earlier and would have predicted Steven Moffat leaving his position as showrunner of Doctor Who. For some weeks, he had been discussing when he’d know it was time to go. This changed to news of his “actively seeking” his replacement early this month. There was other data but – as this post can no longer prove prescience – it is hoped you’ll enjoy a slightly different Doctor Who-related story.

In mid-September of last year, while attending a new convention, I was asked to be a guest panelist for a Doctor Who discussion. I am leaving anonymous those who invited me to participate as a courtesy due to the nature of this story. They’ll be getting private messages about this post and can certainly chime in when they see this and if they so wish.

One of the questions posed in two parts to the audience for a show-of-hands response was: “How many like the new Doctor (Peter Capaldi)?”

The reaction was mixed and one who raised her hand to express a negative opinion was probably in her very early teens. The moderator asked her specifically why she was opposed to the 12th Doctor.

She informed us that she’d heard there was a policy that the Doctor was supposed to be getting younger. Apparently she believed Gallifreyans experience the equivalent of aging backwards – incrementally – with each regeneration. Given that Christopher Eccleston is 7 years older than David Tennant, who is 11 years older than Matt Smith, it seems she was expecting an incarnation portrayed by an actor in his (or her) early 20s or even younger.

This would certainly mean the Doctor’s and her own age would more or less match up with the 13th.

One of the lines Mr. Capaldi has delivered while playing the part was: “Clara, I’m not your boyfriend.” There’s no evidence that the girl in the audience wanted a younger actor in the role to facilitate a crush. More of her comments made it seem more likely she wanted to see the Doctor as a kind of playmate, though.

My heart went out to the girl in the audience then and still does to some extent. How does one correct a misapprehension about BBC policy, or showrunner intent, or Doctor Who canon without stepping on a dream? Isn’t one of the features of DW how easily it engages our imagination?

With Mr. Moffat’s departure the only installment of DW in 2016 will be the next Christmas special. The new companion series “Class” doesn’t start filming until Spring and won’t air until next year either. The target demographic for Class would seem to be much closer to the age of the girl at the panel. I hope she finds her peer in it.

I could say I hate waiting (because I do). I could say I’m happy to see Moffat’s tenure end (as I am). But I think this year-plus gap in Doctor Who affords all of us fresh territory in the imagination it invites – the Girl in the Audience included.

I’ve already been inspired; there’s a new art project inspired by these and other thoughts.

Gallifrey Page

Let’s see where this goes. Or, in other words, stay tuned.


 

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Except it isn’t like that…

 

A month ago I wrote about a selection of Seven Wonders of Fictional Worlds and concluded with the fantasy of time travel to visit the traditional Wonders of classical antiquity. One of them, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, is seen in the background of this imagined hall of the Great Library in that same city.

Library

In 1980 Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage reinforced a story I’d learned in school. About 20% of both the first and last episodes of that documentary miniseries recount the importance and grandeur and then the tragic loss of the Great Library of Alexandria. The account makes it seem like a seven-century run that came to an end on one disastrous day. The last librarian, Hypatia, was murdered by a mob of zealots and the scrolls were burned.

Historians and scholars, along with both fans and authors of science fiction, hold onto the fantasy of time travel to before that terrible day. What books would you save if you had the chance? Dr. Sagan is not immune here:

“If I could travel back into time, this is the place I would visit. The Library of Alexandria, at its height, two thousand years ago.”

The story of the apparently sudden disaster portrays the mob as ignorant acting in defense of its ignorance. The loss to knowledge remains incalculable and is, probably rightfully, regarded as a one or two thousand-year setback to nearly all fields of study. Dr. Sagan provided a sense of perspective on this loss:

“We do know that of the 123 plays of Sophocles in the Library, only seven survived. One of those seven is Oedipus Rex. Similar numbers apply to the works of Aeschylus and Euripides. It is a little as if the only surviving works of a man named William Shakespeare were Coriolanus and A Winter’s Tale, but we had heard that he had written certain other plays, unknown to us but apparently prized in his time, works entitled Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet.”

There are nine missing books of the poetry of Sappho and none of the works of Pythagoras survive. A full inventory of what was lost is also lost!

In the 2009 film, Agora, Hypatia is the hero and acts out our fantasy of salvage.

Hypatia

Hypatia was not merely the last librarian. In an age when women were still widely regarded as little more than property she was among the world’s leading mathematicians and astronomers. Further, she was a philosopher and teacher.

The mob that killed her and destroyed the Library is painted as acting out of fear but it seems more likely they were motivated by anger. In addition to the roles mentioned above, Hypatia was also not afraid to express political views. She is believed to have been a supported of Orestes, the governor of Alexandria; this made her an opponent of Cyril, that city’s bishop and successor to Theophilus.

But it didn’t happen quite that way.

As presented, the tale of the final moments of Hypatia and the Library is often a summary of at least four events and a compression of almost 400 years. The impression that there was just one very bad day at the Library is a false one. Julius Caesar did damage in 48 ʙᴄ and more may have happened toward the end of the reign of Aurelian (c. 275 ᴀᴅ).

There were at least two other libraries in Alexandria and – in summary – they may all have been conflated into one. One of these other libraries was part of the Serapeum Temple, which was ordered destroyed by the Bishop of Alexandria – Theophilus – in 391 ᴀᴅ.

This means Hypatia was more likely the victim of an assassination rather than a martyr of scholarship and/or science. The manner of death was particularly brutal to be sure but it cannot have been part of the attacks by Caesar or Aurelian; she wouldn’t have been born yet. She doesn’t seem to have come to prominence in Alexandria until nine years after the destruction of the Serapeum and its own library. The murder took place fifteen years later still.

“The books were distributed to the public baths of Alexandria, where they were used to feed the stoves which kept the baths so comfortably warm. Ibn al-Kifti writes that ‘the number of baths was well known, but I have forgotten it’ (we have Eutychius‘ word that there were in fact four thousand). ‘They say,’ continues Ibn al-Kifti, ‘that it took six months to burn all that mass of material.’”

Luciano Canfora, The Vanished Library (University of California Press; 1st edition (Aug. 29, 1990))

The Library of Alexandria is said to have held between Eutychius’ estimate and one million scrolls. Many of these were the result of the “books of the ships” policy. All ships entering the harbor of Alexandria were inspected. Any books found aboard were seized and a copy was made. The originals are said to have been kept for the library, the original owner of the books got the copies.

In addition to the time travel fantasy: What answers and inspirations would you save of you could? – we should also ask: Were the scrolls and books in the library during its destructions the last copies in existence? What’s easier – inventing time travel or holding out hope while in diligent search for missing copies?

Note: The title of this post is a quote from Nova: Season 8, Episode 12. “It’s About Time” (Dec. 30, 1980).

You are invited to rampantly speculate and muse in answer to these questions via comment on this post. Given that this blog is [Thankfully] visited by people from 78 nations and counting, the perspectives are sure to be fascinating.


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ceteris paribus…

It is probably reasonable to assume that the faith of our parents, if any, is assumed in our early years to be the only faith. I remember noticing and asking about the different iconologia and emblemata of the 14 houses of worship in my very small hometown. It was a disproportionately large number of options. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, I was a member of at least five different congregations belonging to different Christian denominations before the age of 12.

And prior to that age, the United States was ramping up to its Bicentennial celebrations and participating in the first two Olympics of which I was aware (some years before the Winter and Summer Games were split and staggered). On display at home was a vast array of old and newly minted patriotic symbols. Each nation of the more than 90 competing The Games (half the world at the time) had brought an entirely different selection of icons to the stadium.

Surely formal education contributed to an awareness of how much larger the world is than I might have imagined before adolescence. But the diversity of religious and national expression was given sharp emphasis by experience and observation. This has allowed me to acknowledge that dignity can arise everywhere on the planet – from each person who will allow it to manifest – regardless of place of birth.

There is a vogue in political thought here, the notion of American exceptionalism. The nation may unfortunately have been born with it. The soil here is not a magical home plate (to employ the metaphor from our “national pastime”). It isn’t where a person is born or lives that makes their accomplishments special. Accomplishment and the person who achieves it are both special – anywhere. I’m not running for office. I don’t have to perpetuate a myth.

As readers of this blog may have guessed, flags and maps fascinate me. A flag is not just the equivalent of a postal code. It is a declaration of a certain set of beliefs and, it must be said, opinions. A map is more than a tool for where to find things. For me, maps have long and collectively been metaphors for the intrinsic potential of what things may be found.

thank youSurfing the Zeitgeist is intended to share my perspective on the value and mission of creative expression – along with a certain view on the universality of potential. The above map shows the nations from which Visits have been made. I track this as a reminder that there isn’t just one zeitgeist to surf. Each visit is more than a “pin in a map” for me. It’s a vantage point – a reminder that my point of view is only one way of examining the zeitgeist. I’m curious about them all – and I think I always have been.

per mutatio…

In art nouveau, and particularly the work of Alphonse Mucha, we frequently see an arc of ever-smaller circles around both sides of a round frame. Mr. Mucha found this structure fascinating and, I must admit, I do as well. I won’t go as far as to suggest it counts as part of sacred geometry (either for myself of for Mr. Mucha). But it is very appealing to my aesthetic.

In mathematics, such a figure is called either a Pappus chain or Steiner chain – depending on specific tangency. I’m certain it has a name in art world but I haven’t rediscovered the term (yet).

As you may have seen in previous posts to this blog, I am creating sculpture and art in addition to written fiction. The Star Trek-inspired novel¹ on which I am in progress has introduced a sister muse. The television series and motion pictures showed us very little Vulcan art. Much as I might prefer otherwise, I do understand that Vulcan culture is not the main point of Star Trek. But it is the emphasis you’ll find on The Taan Shop².

ta'an 2Just this week I was able to blend two examples of Vulcan art and symbolism (the IDIC and the coffin-shaped chime/gong) with the Mucha crescent. The words shown are kau and yehtwise and true, respectively.

Pandora’s Pets are creatures of expressed emotion. The items presented on The Taan Shop could count as the opposite. Or maybe not. Fans of Star Trek know that Vulcans embrace logic. We know from the salute of “Live long and prosper” and the philosophy of “Infinite diversity in infinite combination” that their perspective is more nuanced than commonly thought. It seems more likely that the Pets and the ta’an are two sides of the same flag.

Both projects are evolving and I feel they should. You are invited to pay a visit.

Vulcan Tarot frame


¹ “All We Now Hold True
² More accurately, the Vulcan word for gift would be transliterated as ta’an but that would confuse the URL.


Note: The Vulcan font was designed and provided in beta form by Britton Watkins. He is the developer and director of conlanging, a documentary on the art of making fictional languages and writing systems.