C (in a Roman sense)…

This is the 100th post here on Surfing the Zeitgeist. Since I began this project the subjects have ranged from legend to futurism. From creative process to both profession writing and sculpture. From who I have been to who I aspire to be.

Maintaining a nearly weekly schedule on a blog has helped focus my thinking, which as you’ve seen can range across a wide range of topics. That’s fine for amusement but when there’s a task at hand it helps to have a structure and/or outline. There have been a few personal landmarks along the way – not the least of which being the loss of Leonard Nimoy.

I’ve also been able to celebrate my collaborations with Leanna Renee Hieber, the Nerdy Duo, and Simon Berman. There have been links to my other blog-work at Criminal Element. Through all the past 99 posts I have enjoyed tracking the nations from which Visits and Likes have come. The number of countries on that tally coincidentally sits at 99. It’s fun to have a bet with myself on the next addition to the list but I’m nearly always surprised, though I am fairly certain № 100 will not be North Korea.

99

Apart from providing insight to how I go about my projects I’ve given a few glimpses at my philosophy – hopefully without being controversial. My heroes and notions of civics don’t have to be yours; if we all agreed on every point what would be the purpose of a blog anyway?

A hero’s journey and a personal one may both fall under the rubric of per aspera ad astra (through hardships to the stars). High hopes lead to higher aim. My motto for the past 25 years has been, “The only raw material required to manufacture hope is time.”


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.

both-books

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.

buy-it


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the needs of the many…

There are probably no authors setting out to have a star or planet named in their honor. That said, very few would decline such homage. Asteroid 4659 and a crater on Mars bear the name Roddenberry. The creator of Star Trek likely didn’t include earning this sort of acknowledgement while developing the series.

Gene Roddenberry did, however, attempt to get the science right. He consulted scientists and engineers on a somewhat regular basis. He was also a student of his times and wanted to present entertaining adventures about the future blended with relevant social commentary. Nichelle Nichols, the original Uhura, famously tells a story that each episode was meant to be a modern morality play.

Countless people recount that original Trek inspired their choice of careers while not necessarily having achieving Roddenberry’s dream of humanity at peace with itself and unafraid of its future in mind. This phenomenon is not limited to math and technology either; I know of at least one lawyer who found the trial of Spock in the episode “Menagerie” fascinating enough to prompt study of jurisprudence. The humanism and idealism of Star Trek are very important facets of my long-standing desire to write and make art.

arrowhead

Many fans consider the reboot of the franchise to be less than worthy of the title and have branded it – somewhat pejoratively – as the “Abramsverse” or “NuTrek”. Paramount and CBS have recently attempted to get ahead of these descriptions. They’d like us to call it “The Kelvin Timeline”.

Chris Pine is the second actor to portray Captain Kirk. He has been quoted as giving the following response regarding the franchise shifting away from speculative futurism in favor of presenting an action thriller.

You can’t make a cerebral Star Trek in 2016. It just wouldn’t work in today’s marketplace. You can hide things in there – Star Trek Into Darkness has crazy, really demanding questions and themes, but you have to hide it under the guise of wham-bam explosions and planets blowing up. It’s very, very tricky. The question that our movie poses in ‘Does the Federation mean anything? And in a world where everybody’s trying to kill one another all of the time, that’s an important thing. Is working together important? Should we all go our separate ways? Does being united against something mean anything?

— Chris Pine, à la SFX Magazine

Star Trek was fond of Shakespeare references and there’s one that perfectly sums up the problem with the Abramsverse and the attitude expressed by Mr. Pine: “…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The last log entry by Kirk was wonderful fan service at the end of The Undiscovered Country and should now be interpreted by CBS and Paramount as exactly how fans would like to see Star Trek handled – rather than catering to a formula while implicitly demeaning the audience.

This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of a new generation. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man… where no one has gone before.

As part of a recent presentation by Claire Legrand, Megan McCafferty, and Leanna Renee Hieber all three authors recommended that any authors in the audience write what they loved reading as children. Write what they wanted to read.

Best Faction map

In broad strokes I plan to cover some of the same ground as Star Trek did: the destiny of humanity in space and to what extent human nature might be baggage carried along the way. It seems fair to say that a writer must be the first fan of his or her own work. So I’ve charted my world(s)-building – applying a different rotation to the same field of real stars used for the Arrowhead interpretation. Astral’s interstellar factions overlapped each other in a previously posted map. That’s not the case in this new one.

At a convention I once attended both Gene and Majel Barrett Roddenberry recommended that whatever I might wish to see in Star Trek I should write and tell Paramount. I never did follow their advice but I may hide it under the guise of thoughtful speculation and all the things the Federation still means to me.


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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From his house at R’lyeh…

Almost two weeks ago, I mentioned that a kickstarter effort was upcoming. Good news!

lovecraftRoughly four days back, Simon Berman launched his project to fund the publication of a wonderful book. I couldn’t be more pleased. Apart from the re-release of some of H. P. Lovecraft‘s most influential fiction, Mr. Berman wanted to incorporate new, original content that might expand the mythos and potentially draw new fans. I presume that an attempt was made to contact the spirit of Lovecraft. He seems to remain unavailable.

Both my collaborator on other projects, Leanna Renee Hieber, and I were among those who individually contributed pieces. We were able to choose topics and themes from a list of suggestions provided by Mr. Berman. I’ve written in the past that mythology and maps† have been fascinations of mine for some while. So my selection was a very specific aspect of myth that has also wound as a particular thread through the Cthulhu saga almost since its inception.

In some ways, I found this experience to be a contrast and counterpoint to my current work on A Song Heard in the Future.

224e98469a8fcab15954c115f042d967_original† And when this kickstarter reaches the stretch goal, an attractive map will be added to the end papers of the book. At present, the project is 20% the way to including said map and 25% the way to funding without it. Wouldn’t you prefer having the map inside? I would.

To support this project and to help others find it, please click here — http://tinyurl.com/p2yasta.
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“Let me sum up.”

An annoyingly catchy tune from 1992, Dizz Knee Land by Dada, has been on my mind for the past few days – but with “Dragon Con” substituted for “Disneyland”.

thom at dragon conNote: I apologize if that song is now playing on repeat in your head.

This will be my second year attending Dragon Con. I will be posting a schedule of the panels on which I’ll be presenting as the date grows a bit closer.

This event is, as you might suppose, always very exciting. It has been a busy year for me since my first time there. I’m in progress on two novels, which readers of this blog are aware. Together with my coauthor and business partner, Leanna Renee Hieber, we have introduced the adorable “feels assistants” – a.k.a. Pandora’s Pets to more than 100 customers and a growing number of stores. I was quite honored to develop the four separate covers for Ms. Hieber’s upcoming release of the Dark Next Chronicles.

DNCWe have both written separately for an illustrated anthology of Lovecraftsmanship that’s expected to launch in October – probably just in time for Halloween. Along with the other two members of PsychWing (i.e., The Nerdy Duo) we are developing a short science fiction film.

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It has been a year (plus) of dreams coming true.

Note: Until after Dragon Con there may be a slight disruption in my once-a-week posting to Surfing the Zeitgeist.

Tilting at the Windmills of My Mind…

As Pandora’s Pets are not made singly, except in the case of a commission, it isn’t so easy to say precisely how long each takes to make. They take as long as they need. Their creation is a collaborative process with Leanna Renee Hieber, who gives them their individual details and augments their personalities. We haven’t precisely timed that process either.

PetsWhen each is finished as a work of art, they’re not fully complete until a customer adopts them. There’s a procedure when each is sold that we consider vital. Every one of Pandora’s Pets needs a name. We keep a record of the name of each Pet.

To be honest, however, I didn’t want to have a list containing common or ridiculous appellations. This meant there needed to be a process. Within the lore of Pandora’s Pets they’re meant to be quite ancient, somewhat otherworldly creatures. What follows is a (mostly) complete account of how the naming chart was created (in January of this year); this isn’t entirely random facts:


circa 3800 BC
Ur was a Sumerian city-state and served the Mesopotamian culture as an important port. Since the end of that period, silting of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have added almost 200 miles of land between the Great Ziggurat and the Persian Gulf. At its peak, however, Ur was immense in terms of both scale and splendor.


c. 832 BC
The First Temple in Jerusalem is begun. Myths about its construction probably began about this time, too.


c. 1100
The Scots adopted the word glomung from Old English. It became gloaming and still means twilight or dusk. In some parts of Scotland it may also mean dawn.


1583
By this time, the esoterica about King Solomon‘s included the recruitment of 72 spirits, each of whom had special talents. Johann Weyer and others attempted to list them all. The lists don’t match at every point.


1821
John Keats invented the word gloam for his revision of the ballad, La Belle Dame sans Merci.


Thinking about these things and along these lines produced the following chart:

d20: Name Tribe
1 Kut(h)- -as(h)/es(h)- -tis Chill
2 Tel- -par/pur- -lor Pitch
3 Ur- -kah- -tos Murky
4 Kis(h)- -el- -ax Shade
5 Der- -gaht- -far Ghast
6 Ad- -veh- -ur Wight
7 Jem- -ix- -as Ghoul
8 Eri- -ib- -for Brood
9 Ak- -daht- -par Gloom
10 Es(h)- -sal- -eth Frost
11 Gir- -o- -gos Gaunt
12 Lag- -bey- -las Weird
13 Lar- -mu- -mon Cloak
14 Shu -ru- -ius Bleak
15 Har- -neh- -ith Ghost
16 Din- -day- -son Dread
17 Bad- -ara- -thin Haunt
18 Is(h)- -tra- -ion Eerie
19 Kua- -euh- -eus Qualm
20 Bad- -has- -os Cloud

Column № 1 – represents the result on a 20-sided die. A different, color-coded die is used for each subsequent column at point-of-sale.
Column № 2 – The names of some of civilization’s most ancient settlements (or syllables thence) became the prefix for each Pet’s name – to suggest extreme age.
Column № 3 – The middle of each Pet’s first name is pure invention to serve as a bridge.
Column № 4 – The suffix of about thirty percent of Solomon’s helpers are also suffix for the Pets.
Column № 5 – The Tribes to which each Pet may belong are called by synonyms of gloam and other spooky 5-letter words.

The next batch of Pandora’s Pets will mean there are more than 100 of them in the world! As making them helps both Ms. Hieber and I smile – and then the people to whom they’re offered for sale – that’s an already uncountable number of smiles that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Note: While making this post ready my entire computer froze. I’m attributing the smile that resulted from not having to start over to the Pets as well.

ek ik pakashogau etek u’yeht’es…

There is nothing new or shocking (to those who know me at all if not well) that I have been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember. And while I will not claim to have been to Hell and back, it is probably fair to say that I experienced some trauma during my “formative years”.

I delayed my initial post regarding Leonard Nimoy’s passing by a few days, partly out of respect and partly because I needed time to process. I am still processing. It was his portrayal of Mr. Spock that ironically provided a much younger me with a sense of emotional stability.

The Vulcan way is part of a body of fiction, of course; I do not embrace it as a way of life. It merely informs some of my “navigation”. In all honesty, though I have a lasting affection for Star Trek, it never presented any alien species as a whole and complete culture.

Klingons, it could be argued, are more richly detailed than any others but a ritual-of-the-week and appropriation of Shakespeare makes them just the boldest cypher of the lot. Vulcans run a close second oddly enough. All of the alien cultures started as metaphor and have become stereotypes in their own right.

Within the past few days my ‘processing’ has led to adjusting the schedule of my novels-in-progress. For a very long time I have wanted and needed to write for Vulcans as more than computers on legs from a volcanic desert world.

My very good friend, Leanna Renee Hieber hurried to tell me of Mr. Nimoy’s passing while already rushing between her programming commitments during AnachroCon. She knew what it would mean and took special care to break the news in a kind and gentle way – rather than it coming by way of a stranger’s shouted announcement amid convention chaos. As she made her way to the next panel, I drew a portrait of the actor who played one of my heroes:

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His final words/Tweet compel: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

Spock’s people are known for their respect for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (k’lalatar prkori k’lalatar prnak’lirli) and the IDIC symbol. Gene Roddenberry stated the symbol “has great meaning to all Vulcans”. He indicated that it was somewhat comparable to a religious symbol. Outside of fiction, the symbol itself is 47 years old.

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Comprehension and embrace of diversity still eludes us. Some efforts at celebration of diversity can cost us opportunities for unity. We still need the IDIC.

If nearly every Vulcan we have ever seen is just like Spock why would they venerate diversity? How could it mean so much to them if they were not natively host to quite a range?

All this to say: a novel concerning Vulcan memory, truth, and culture has moved to top priority – at the urging of Ms. Hieber, who will be coauthor of the work. The working title is “All We Now Hold True“. (In the Vulcan language, that is the title of this blog post. Thanks to Britton Watkins for the translation.)

Please do feel invited to Follow, Like, and/or comment.

Couching a Tale…

The characters in any story may be compared with the id. The related ego is the author and any collaborators. The superego could be a combination of critique partners and editors. If this theory of mine is accurate, it may explain why writers will tell you they have arguments with their characters about what they would or would not do within the story. And while it is the author-ego who determines the “reality” of the story, the character-id makes it Go. A wise author will let the characters be the engine and do his or her job of driving.

There is an immensely strong id in Leanna Renee Hieber’s newest novel – The Eterna Files (released by Tor and available at fine booksellers like Barnes & Noble and here). The character in question is known as The Visitor (and by another name I’ll not reveal here (spoilers)). Within the context of Eterna’s first installment, The Visitor may be an actual zeitgeist – attempting to inspire the other characters as they face supernatural and potentially calamitous new realities.

Excerpt, The Eterna Files, p. 14 —
“What is it this time?” Clara gasped.
“Hello, Clara,” the visitor said quietly. One didn’t mistake an ordinary person for the visitor, for it brought with it the weight of time itself. “It’s been awhile.” The visitor smoothed the skirts of its long, plain, black, uniform-like dress, something a boarding school girl might wear. “Have you been waiting?” the visitor asked.
“I’m not a girl who waits,” Clara replied.
“That’s why I trust you,” the visitor said, pleasure in its voice.

The broader arc of The Visitor began before I was invited to be Ms. Hieber’s collaborator on some projects. The author of the above had written about her before in vignette and cameo fashion a few times before we’d actually even met. In what was unrelated brainstorming for possible inclusion in a well-known franchise, Ms. Hieber and I started to develop a strong, female character in command of her own starship. There were some difficult directorial reactions to our plans. And to the Captain’s plans. She – The Captain – almost immediately took command, as she’d been designed to do, of her own destiny.

Before long both Leanna and I had the epiphany that The Captain was The Visitor. That development and The Mission of Captain-Visitor character-id is only part of why I’m fascinated by The Eterna Files. I repeat my recommendation of buying the book and curling up on the couch with your copy.

Video credit: PsychWing and The Nerdy Duo

Excerpt, The Eterna Files, p. 16 —
“Why can’t you stop terrible things if you’re aware of them?” Clara demanded. “Why can’t I?”
“Not in our skill set,” the visitor replied. “You’ve taken too much ownership of something that is not your responsibility, Templeton. What is your responsibility, is to—”

“‘Wake up?’ Yes, I hear it, on the wind. In my bones. What does it mean?”
The woman gestured before her, to Clara’s iterations. “You see the lives, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Clara swallowed hard. “Do you?”

Georg Hegel is given credit for coining the word – zeitgeist. But he did not use the term. He believed that the spirit of the time is our own spirit and that “both” may evolve. The Visitor’s mission is the most heroic I can imagine and may be related to Hegel’s assertion that “World history is thus the unfolding of Spirit in time, as nature is the unfolding of the Idea in space.” I am genuinely excited to help write The Visitor’s future and past. She may prove to have an important role in A Song Heard in the Future and in at least one other story that sometimes makes it difficult to sleep.

“You see the lives, don’t you?”

Yes. Won’t you?

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.