Or off the clock…

If someone in Ancient Greece were introduced to Joseph Campbell’s title – The Hero with a Thousand Faces, all of the visages might be expected to be those of women.

Greek Hero

Albeit of modern Greek women, this is a composite of a great number of their faces. She would be comparable to the anticipated Hero.

The word or, more precisely, the name Hero (Hērṓ) was considered feminine. The best-known example would be from the tragic story of Hero and Leander (Léandros). They lived on opposite sides of The Dardanelles strait and Hero would set a lamp in a tower window each night, essentially as a lighthouse for Leander‘s swim. This lasted for months until the light was extinguished in a storm and Leander drowned. Hero threw herself from the tower to her own death.

There is, of course, a male Hero – one of the sons of King Priam (Príamos) of Troy. This Hero is not distinguished in any detail by his own myth. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and considering Hero to be a unisex name, the Ancient Greek would still expect a veritable battalion of female faces with the above premise.

Words and their definitions evolve over time and across borders. When we borrow words from foreign languages we don’t always get all the nuance in the bargain. We should, however, try to be diligent in the use of our vocabulary. We set the meaning and context by our selections. This has ramifications outside of conversation and writing, too. Words are how we think.

Last week, I wrote a summary of the monomyth. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been devoting much of my thought to what makes a hero. The shortest answer is, “We do.” And, I think, we should be careful in our choices. In the current social climate we’re much more likely to hear the word hero applied to celebrities from the worlds of music or sports. If you ask several people what makes a hero, courage will rapidly rise near to the top of the list. It is true that the musician and the athlete must be brave to be successful; I’m not sure that’s any less true of all other profession requiring dedication.

When I was a child all of my heroes were fictional characters or persons who’d been dead long enough to have legends associated with them. In youth I think this is acceptable and natural. Early in my adulthood my emphasis and definition changed and I invented a puzzle for myself (and eventually others).

 Name four real people, none of whom are related to you, that contributed to your identity – and be specific about how.

I didn’t know it at the time but, I believe now, this provides a wonderful definition of what a personal hero may be. A hero should be someone – male or female – who inspires us to be more. In the original puzzle I suggested that the four figures would represent a personal Mt. Rushmore. This was a handy way to refer to this mental exercise but it was an error. The answer to this puzzle should not be immutably etched in stone. Identity, exactly like definition, evolves.

My answer to my own puzzle was:

  • Gene Roddenberry, for introducing the value of ideals
  • Richard Scarry, for illustrating the necessity to look beyond and behind face value
  • Carl Sagan, for demonstrating the interconnected nature of all subjects and disciplines
  • Jim Henson, for the gift of purposeful whimsy

You might notice all of them are men. In my young adulthood I was interested in defining what sort of man I would be. As a writer, however, I am dedicated to presenting heroes of all genders and having each character be – as much as is possible in fiction – real people.

So, I’m adding two women to the Mt. Rushmore:

  • Nancy Grace Augusta Wake ᴀᴄ, ɢᴍ – a British SOE agent and ally of the French Resistance during World War II. Known aliases: Heléne, Andrée, the White Mouse, and Witch.
  • Hannah Callowhill Penn – the acting governor and proprietor of the Province of Pennsylvania at least a generation before the era of the Founding Fathers. She was the second wife of William Penn.

Advertisements

Well, why not write?

There are four stories pushing at me (not counting those planned with my coauthor). In pondering each over the past week or so, I was a little surprised to realize that each stems from a different purpose in telling.

For longer than I can precisely recall, I have criticized a lot of films with the label “big, dumb, testosteronedriven explosion movie”. I’ve never been particularly interested in writing a romp. That’s not the objective or, I should say, there is an objective.

Each of the stories I have in progress came from quite different moments of inspiration. Some were like unexpected bolts of lightning while others were the result of prolonged brainstorms.

Comprehension of a lifetime’s factors —

One of the novels began as a spreadsheet for sorting data and looking for trends. It wasn’t intended to be a story at all. Trends in the information, however, began to suggest a narrative. The more I looked, the more compelling and fascinating (to me) it became. There actually was a narrative in the chart and it sprang out of it in an almost parthenogenetic way.

Expanding the perception of courage —

The second book was inspired by a single image. I cannot say if the artist had any story in mind but it made me think of a “band of brothers” situation. The main characters in said band all happen to be young women. For a brief moment it seemed that Sucker Punch might be what I had in mind but the reviews given by friends dissuaded me from that notion and from seeing the film.

The diligence of the heart —

Folklore has many tales that predict the return of a hero or of a force. Imagine such a situation were to transform a part of the world – and everyone in it – almost in an instant. What aspect of human nature and emotion could then be examined? What would prove you were still human despite the change and how far would you go to prove it?

Making sense of nonsense —

Science fiction series, when they include sentient aliens, eventually generate a set of stereotypes concerning them. Even Star Trek and Doctor Who have not proven immune. Examining the Vulcans logically reveals that much of what we think we know about them doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. I aim to explain the contradictions.

For just a little over a year, I have been posting here on a weekly basis. Somewhat prior to adopting that habit this blog kicked off with a simple image. If my reason for writing can be distilled to a single sentence, it is captured in that banner.

Homesteading


ἐπιφάνεια…

Sometimes it is difficult to hear a particular Muse clearly. More often than not, it isn’t just one speaking to me. Ideas for sculpture, writing, and other art are coming all the time – simultaneously. From time to time, I will have to pause one project in favor of another. Even in an ideal world, in which I could devote every second of the day to the arts, I’m certain this would be the case. It’s just the way it goes.

During any pause on a specific writing project, there is not a complete silencing of the voices of the characters involved. They are, in the back of my mind, still seeking deeper subtext and greater clarity about their motives and missions. There’s probably no way to stop this and I wouldn’t want to. When research and writing resumes there are new epiphanies that, I feel, improve the richness of the work in question.

Recently, my thinking returned to the story of Teiresias, which I am calling A Song Heard in the Future (based on a quote from Tennyson’s poem treating the same character). Before the pause I knew there were two major holes in the novel. Two characters – both of whom are women – were going to disappear into them.

Being a seer, Teiresias is frequently a giver of advice. As a person, though, he lives through some truly fantastic upheavals. It stands to reason that he might – from time to time – seek some advice. Part of Song deals with this but for a while I wasn’t sure how.

The advice in this case becomes the foundation of the third act. The two characters who provide it were apparently very active during my break from this tale. They were in danger of vanishing from the story after merely being messengers. It is perhaps a platitude that an author’s characters speak to their creator. In this instance, these two were defending their importance. It really is like they knew.

One of them “reminded” me that she also had to be involved in some of the first scenes of the book. I can’t argue with the logic. And how could I have missed it‽

In trying to stay as close to the source material of Greek mythology (the origin of so many tales of heroism), it seemed a little cowardly to let important characters fade from the story and follow other paths to the end of the saga.

The song may be heard in the future but I have to listen to it, and the Muses, now.

muses light


🜀🝠

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.

But Thinking Makes It So…

As part of his forward for the 16ᵗʰ topic treated by The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (Harmony/Crown Books, US; Pan Books, UK – 1977) Larry Niven stated that telepathy, psionics, and the like could result in poor writing and suggested that it is the limitations an author sets on such fantastic powers that makes them interesting. His caution was one of avoiding wish fulfillment.

There are similar arguments made about souls and any sort of after life. Devising a series of tests for the existence souls and what fates may await them could be more difficult than scientific analysis of psychic prowess. Nikola Tesla performed an experiment to do just that. Would Mr. Niven make a similar argument about wish fulfillment here too?

The wish made manifest is one of the components of achievement. Isn’t what we do and make how we craft our sense of meaning and value? What tests may show often matter less than the results of having some belief in something eternal, particularly in conjunction with those crucial senses.

I look upon death to be as necessary to the constitution as sleep. We shall rise refreshed in the morning. Finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or other always exist.”
Benjamin Franklin

In an interview in the San Francisco Examiner (26 August 1928), Henry Ford said the following:
I adopted the theory of Reincarnation when I was twenty six. Religion offered nothing to the point. Even work could not give me complete satisfaction. Work is futile if we cannot utilize the experience we collect in one life in the next. When I discovered Reincarnation it was as if I had found a universal plan I realized that there was a chance to work out my ideas. Time was no longer limited. I was no longer a slave to the hands of the clock. Genius is experience. Some seem to think that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives. Some are older souls than others, and so they know more. The discovery of Reincarnation put my mind at ease. If you preserve a record of this conversation, write it so that it puts men’s minds at ease. I would like to communicate to others the calmness that the long view of life gives to us.”

KarmikPrinciple2Franklin and Ford were both (arguably) great. Both the lightning rod and automobile are still in use. These views very likely helped both inventors in being able to accomplish their work. It seems to have reassured them and helped them recharge.

It might matter less who we have been in past lives than who we may be in future iterations. Imagine a reliable method of access to what we’ve learned so we can always hit the ground running. I could put it on my perpetual calendar that I had an appointment with Dr. was-Franklin and Mr. was-Ford on 17 June 2373 in a little pub called The Silver Lining, deep in the Oort cloud . Imagine We Can Remember It for You Wholesale to the Nᵗʰ degree.

“I’ll get back to this.” Scheduled.

There is no Reincarnation Axiom. Tesla’s experiment did not substantiate transubstantiation. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened; there was no proof either way.

Be diligent in what you wish for. Anything can happen.

infinity sergeant copy

The Fault — Is Not in Our Stars…

A component of being a purist may be thinking that the science in science fiction should be reasonably valid and the result of some research. If so, then I am at least partially a purist. If a starship can go anywhere in the galaxy in a few seconds, the accomplishment of space travel becomes quite meaningless. How do we preserve a sense of awe? How can new science fiction inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers?

In a less lofty capacity, if a writer won’t do a bit of research to make the science feel correct is it fair to assume they might stint on other details? Yes, it’s true that the emotions and growth of the characters is the vital core of fiction. How the main character feels may be the best way to capture a reader’s desire to identify with her or him. Comparing that character at the start of the tale and its conclusion provides the essential meaning of the journey.

We’re hard on our potential fictional heroes for a reason. They are more than reflections of our selves. They can – and when done best, should – mirror who we hope to be. The worlds in which they live illustrate where we hope to live. In rare cases, sci fi heroes can help us get there.

Science fiction can serve to criticize the aspects of our society that warrant correction. When the emphasis is on good science, the genre includes a different rationale than some others: that the meaning of our journeys can be understood. There are truly cosmic answers that can be had.

If the rocketship can reach the Moon in less than ten seconds, the landing pad can be green cheese. In “All We Now Hold True” it matters How Far and How Fast. Part of the story is a race against time.

rom-halan-draftDescriptions in prose and by equation need not be in conflict. It has recently been pointed out to me that some of my explanations of formulæ can wax poetic. Balance is part of my preferred aesthetic, whether in composition or equation. Science and math – like hue and light – underlie representations of beauty.

sic itur ad astrathus one goes to the stars

Sifting through the Message…

If there are authors who have just one story in mind, in development, or in progress – I haven’t met them yet. I have also not met Harper Lee but, given “Go Set a Watchman”, she won’t stand as an exception either. Neither can I.

Although I’m chiefly working on “A Song Heard in the Future” when I’m not working on Pandora’s Pets sculpture, there are two other novels cooking gently in the background. There is also the pleasure and honour of serving as co-author to Leanna Renee Hieber for a fair number of other books. Ms. Hieber has several novels on her brilliant mind as well – some with me in a contributory role and some without.

When the Muse makes her visits with economy in mind and brings an idea for each disguised as part of only one novel it can be a puzzling experience. For example, British anti-aircraft gunners were known to pose with wreckage of Nazi planes they’d shot down (if the crash site could be found).

ieImagine such a scene with the oar of a trireme instead of part of an aircraft. That is in essence what the Muse did today – but in a much more vague manner.

It can take a while to discern the intent of the Muse when she’s sent a Tweet rather than a lengthy email. What part is the oar and goes in “Song” and which part belongs in a WWII story I have in mind took some while. It was sifting through wreckage, if you will.

There’s some difficulty, however, in reminding each story of the priority you’ve decided for them. Saying “No.” to inspiration is generally not the best approach for an artist, I would suppose.

Maybe “creative process” should be plural.